Dover recap: Johnson wins at 'The Monster Mile'
DOVER, Del. (May 31, 2009)—Jimmie Johnson climbed from eighth to first during the final 25 laps of Sunday’s 400-mile event at Dover International Speedway and passed Tony Stewart with three to go to claim his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season.
Johnson lined up eighth for the 400-lap affair at Dover’s “Monster Mile,” and assumed the lead within the first 70 laps. Johnson would go on to lead nine times for 298 laps, but he had to work especially hard for those final three after a lengthy late-race pit stop cost the team position. Johnson finally took the lead from Stewart on Lap 397 and held on for the win.
“It was so much fun today,” Johnson said after climbing from his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet. “We had an awesome, awesome race car, and I can’t thank these guys for working so hard to get us cars that drive that comfortable. I mean we’ve been fast, but this was a very special car today. I’ve got to thank (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and those guys in the engine department and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. But in the end, I just had to go. Got running around the top and had one heck of a race with Tony (Stewart). That’s how racing is supposed to be done.”
Johnson improves to third in the driver standings, 18 points behind teammate Jeff Gordon in second.
Johnson maintained a strong lead during the middle of the race, and he worked with teammate Mark Martin so he could pick up an additional five points. Martin led one lap—Lap 240—before Johnson resumed the top spot. The additional points helped Martin maintain his 12th-place position in the driver standings. Martin, who qualified 28th for Sunday’s event, crossed the finish line in 10th.
“That was a tough one,” Martin said after the race. “We were better than 10th. The guys worked so hard this weekend to give me a good race car and I have to tell you, it paid off. The car was good today. We got up there in the top five, and I thought we might have something for the win. That last run just bogged us down in traffic. I wish we had gotten a better finish out of it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet with interim crew chief Lance McGrew atop the pit box. Earnhardt rallied from his 22nd-place starting spot to a 12th-place finish and improved to 18th in the driver standings.
“I’m happier,” Earnhardt said. “I would like to have run better than 12th. We had the car really good there for most of the race. We got it a little too loose, then got real tight trying to fix it. Track position was real important, and we didn’t have it at the end of the race. We had good communication and we made the car a little better, by Lap 200, I was pretty happy and pleased. We need to keep doing that.”
Gordon rolled off the starting grid 42nd in his backup No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet after hitting the wall during Friday’s qualifying session. But when the green flag dropped, Gordon immediately started his climb through the field. He improved 23 spots by Lap 60 and went on to finish 26th.
“It was frustrating weekend,” Gordon said. “We got ourselves behind on Friday when I hit the wall. You know, it was a battle from there. When the green flag dropped, I thought we would be pretty good. We were driving forward. All it takes is one adjustment to get yourself off and that’s what happened today. We made one adjustment to make the car better, and we went backwards and got down two laps and our day was done from that point on. We showed that with track position we actually had a top-five car there at the end, but it didn’t matter at that point.”