Jimmie Johnson Notches Hendrick Motorsports' 150th Win
- Mar 11, 2007
- 48 Team
LAS VEGAS (March 11, 2007) – Despite new banking, a new tire, a brush with the wall and even a pit road penalty, when the 400-mile NASCAR Nextel Cup race ended late Sunday it was Jimmie Johnson standing in Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third consecutive year.
“Today was all about overcoming adversity,” said Johnson, who notched the 24th victory of his six-year career, giving him sole possession of 24th place in all time Nextel Cup victories.
“We had a couple of different things going on today. I got in the wall and tore the right side up. I thought that I had hurt the race car. We overcame that and started adjusting on the car. I thought we had a third- or fourth-place car, but Chad (Knaus, crew chief) started working on it and got the car right.”
The victory marked the 150th since 1984 for Hendrick Motorsports. Although Rick Hendrick couldn’t attend the celebration, drivers Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears, and Kyle Busch joined Johnson.
“We wish the boss could have been here,” said Johnson.
“For us to get the 150th victory for Hendrick Motorsports is phenomenal,” said Knaus.
Johnson’s performance Sunday didn’t reach the drama of his last-lap finish of 2006 when he passed Matt Kenseth just yards from the checkered flag, but it was equally impressive.
This time he used a well-handling race car to pass teammate Jeff Gordon with 11 laps to go. But it wasn’t a drive in the park either.
Johnson led the race when he came to pit road on lap 109. As he pulled from the pits, a tire rolled into another pit. NASCAR issued a penalty sending him back to the end of the longest line.
But there was no panic on the Lowe’s team.
“We knew we had a good race car,” Knaus said. “We said we were going to get up there and do the best we could and wait for the end of the race to get aggressive.”
Johnson restarted 25th and began climbing through the field despite a brief brush with the wall. His push toward the front was made tougher because of the treacherous nature of the 1.5-mile track that saw its banking increased from 12 to 20 degrees in the off-season.
A rock-hard tire added to the difficulty of the track that saw three accidents in the first 18 laps and several more throughout the race.
“Even though I won the race, I have to admit I wasn’t comfortable all day,” Johnson said. “I was on edge the whole time. I had to really earn my money today.”
Within 50 circuits Johnson climbed back into the top five and eventually passed eventual runner-up Gordon in the closing laps. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin rounded out the top five.
The victory moves Johnson to fourth in the Nextel Cup championship standings. The series moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.