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Johnson second at Dover, improves to fifth in standings

Johnson second at Dover, improves to fifth in standings

DOVER, Del. – Spinning his tires on the final restart might have cost Jimmie Johnson his seventh victory at Dover International Speedway, but it didn’t hurt his run for a sixth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet had led a race-high 157 laps coming into the final restart at Dover’s one-mile concrete oval. He lined up on the front row with Kurt Busch and spun the tires slightly, giving Busch the edge. Johnson crossed the finish line second, improving five spots in the championship standings to fifth.

“I just got a poor restart when I was the leader, and for the last restart, I didn’t get a good one again,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t race (Busch) through Turns 1 and 2. The cars were very equal. We saw that.

“This finish gets us right back in the thick of things,” Johnson added. “I think a lot of people overreacted last week about an 18th place finish (at New Hampshire). But this is a great race team. We proved that today.”

Johnson’s teammates rounded out the top 24 and worked to overcome issues of their own during the 400-lap event.

Jeff Gordon improved from his 34th starting spot to run 19th within the first 33 laps. His team continually addressed handling issues that Gordon experienced with his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. While navigating the rubber buildup on the track was tricky, restarts also proved difficult. Gordon held on to finish 12th and now ranks ninth in the driver standings.

Restarts have “been a struggle for us here at this track this year,” Gordon said. “It’s like there’s no air in the front tires for the first eight laps so we don’t have any speed to take off. Once we get going, we have a great race car. We started off good and worked our way forward pretty quick from that 34th position, but once we got up there, I made some mistakes today and we just didn’t have it on the restarts. But other than that, we had great fight in this race team. I’m proud of that. But we’ve got to do better.

“I can’t wait to get (to Kansas). If we can run the way we ran there earlier in the year, we’ll make up a lot of positions we lost today.”

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet, crossed the finish line 19th. Martin ran as high as ninth after starting the race in 17th, but maneuvering around the rubber buildup was tough, especially in traffic, and Martin battled for position. He remains 16th in the standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 24th in his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet after a day filled with rare mechanical issues. With help from his No. 88 team, Earnhardt rallied early from a roll bar issue and then a broken right sway bar arm. As the race progressed, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet developed a vibration that his team would address throughout the remainder of the race. Earnhardt now ranks 10th in the driver standings.