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Johnson Overcomes Adversity to Win at Indy

 

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 6, 2006) – Neither dead batteries nor flat tires nor pit fires could keep Jimmie Johnson from the coveted Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, as he overcame several early-race hurdles to win at the Brickyard.

Johnson handed Hendrick Motorsports its record fifth win in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition at the famous 2.5-mile IMS oval by leading 33 laps of the 160-lap race in a No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet that was dominant when it counted.

Johnson was able to cruise to the checkered flag on the last lap due to two incidents that brought out the yellow flag, causing the race to finish under caution. The race, which saw eight cautions for 24 laps, had an average speed of 137.182 mph.

“I’m speechless right now,” said Johnson.  “I can’t thank this race team enough for what they’ve done. We overcame a left-front flat tire to rally back. We drove all the way to the front. I never thought I would win at this race track. We had such a drought at this race track, and now we have a victory.”

The victory also extends Johnson’s lead in the NEXTEL Cup Series points by 107 over Kenseth, but Johnson’s focus wasn’t on points.

“There was nothing of a championship on my mind today,” he said in Victory Lane. “I wanted this trophy over here with the brick on it. I want to pucker up and kiss those bricks on the front stretch. It was all about winning the race today.”

The event started ominously for Johnson and Team Lowe’s. He was a late departure from the grid as the field pulled away to start pace laps because his team had to frantically replace a dead battery on the car.

On Lap 40, the caution flag flew as smoke trailed from Johnson’s car entering Turn 1 due to the left-front tire problem. Johnson was able to nurse the car back to pit lane with only very minor damage.

Following the pit stop, a minor oil fire erupted in Johnson’s pit that was more dramatic than dangerous.  There were no injuries.

Johnson also was sent to the tail end of the longest line on the Lap 45 restart for pitting before pit lane was open.

But once the green flag flew, Johnson started a pace that would see him in ninth place by Lap 79.

Johnson had a commanding lead of 2.3 seconds when the caution flag flew on Lap 143 due to debris in Turn 3. The leaders dove into the pits for tires and a splash of fuel while others, including Hendrick teammate Kyle Busch, stayed on the track.

On the restart on Lap 147, Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled away from the field while the drivers that pitted battled behind them. On fresh tires, Johnson quickly approached, taking back the lead in Turn 4 on Lap 150.

Johnson gradually widened the lead to 2.144 seconds when he received the white flag with one lap to go, just before a last-lap incident brought out the caution flag.

Four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon encountered bad luck early when a tire deflated on the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet on Lap 7, breaking a sway bar. He went three laps down but returned to the lead lap, finishing 16th.

Busch finished seventh in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Monte Carlo SS, with teammate Brian Vickers 17th in the No. 25 GMAC Chevy.

Johnson’s win marks only the second time in race history that the same driver has won NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and the 400-mile Indy race in the same year.  Dale Jarrett accomplished the feat in 1996.

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