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Johnson continues to roll with win at Dover

June 03, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

In a nod to his car sponsor, Jimmie Johnson made a colorful fashion statement in Victory Lane. (Getty Images)

DOVER, Del. -- The Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut is back -- with a vengeance.

Driving away from Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth after a restart with 31 laps left in Sunday's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway, Jimmie Johnson made short work of his Sprint Cup rivals.

Johnson, who led 289 of the 400 laps, picked up his second victory of the season and his second victory in the past three points races. He also won the Sprint All-Star Race on May 19. Hendrick drivers now have won four consecutive races, including the All-Star event.

* Final Laps | Victory Lane | Post-Race Reactions

The victory was the 57th of Johnson's career, eighth most all-time. His seventh win at Dover tied Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most at the high-banked, 1-mile concrete track.

Harvick finished second, 2.550 seconds behind Johnson. Kenseth ran third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer. Greg Biffle retained his series lead by one point over teammate Kenseth with an 11th-place finish.

Johnson said afterward that leading the most laps doesn't guarantee success, but on Sunday, he need not have worried.

"When you lead the most laps, sometimes at the end -- the way the cautions fall -- it can backfire on the dominant car," said Johnson, who wore a multi-colored wig matching the "Madagascar 3" paint scheme on his No. 48 Chevrolet at his post-race press conference.

"The way the cautions fell [Sunday], it allowed us to really flex our muscle and bring home the win. I'm proud of the effort. It was a brand new race car we brought to the track. We pulled it off the truck, and it was awesome all weekend long."

Harvick recovered from a mistake on pit road to claim the runner-up spot. The No. 29 Chevrolet driver overshot his pit stall under caution on Lap 227 and had to be pushed into the box by his crew. The miscue dropped Harvick from third to 18th for a restart on Lap 232.

"The car was good enough to be able to drive back through the pack, and for whatever reason, we were able to adjust our car well [Sunday] when we needed to and we were able to keep up with the race track and keep our car better through the day," Harvick said.

"And I think that was a big key to getting through the traffic and putting ourselves back in position to at least have a chance."

Though Johnson won handily, his car might not have been the fastest. The No. 24 of teammate Jeff Gordon was at least its equal, but Gordon had to pit on Lap 250 because of a loose wheel.

"The way the cautions fell [Sunday], it allowed us to really flex our muscle and bring home the win."

--JIMMIE JOHNSON

Gordon returned to pit road for his final stop on Lap 325 and was in position to challenge for the win until an untimely debris caution on Lap 339 temporarily trapped him a lap down and mired him deep in the field after he regained the lost lap on a wave-around. Gordon finished 13th.

Those who have decried the recent lack of caution flags in Sprint Cup races got more than their fill on Lap 9, when contact between Tony Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet and Landon Cassill's No. 83 Toyota triggered a 12-car pileup off Turn 2.

Regan Smith ducked to the inside and tried to power past Stewart but couldn't clear him. Nine other cars stacked up behind Cassill, Stewart and Smith, blocking the track and necessitating a stoppage of 19 minutes, 54 seconds while track workers cleaned up the mess.

* Stewart among those collected in wreck | Video

Smith blamed himself for the wreck, but Stewart was magnanimous in relieving the No. 78 Chevrolet driver of responsibility.

"I got into the back of the No. 14 and started the whole thing," Smith said. "I'll take full blame for that. Somehow they got checked up in front of me. I just didn't have time to get slowed up with it. I hate that there are so many wrecked race cars here. It's not fun for anybody."

Stewart's take on the accident was quite different.

"[Cassill] was trying to get back down to the bottom, and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Stewart said. "It wasn't Regan's fault. He was right behind us, and he didn't have anywhere to go either. Just not a real good deal at the beginning of the race like this."

Stewart returned to the track on Lap 74 and finished 25th, one position better than that of Carl Edwards, who blew a tire and slammed into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 164. Down 80 laps when he returned to the track after repairs, Edwards dropped from 10th to 12th in the standings.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Jimmie Johnson earned his 57th career victory in his 376th start and remains eighth all-time.
• This is Jimmie Johnson's seventh Dover victory, tying Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most at Dover.
• Jimmie Johnson has won 33 percent of the races he has entered at Dover (seven of 21)
• Jimmie Johnson led the most laps at Dover for the ninth time including the past seven Cup races.
• This is Jimmie Johnson's second victory of 2012, joining Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski as multiple winners this season.
• Jimmie Johnson has just one finish worse than 12th since Daytona -- 35th at Talladega.
• Hendrick Motorsports earned its 202nd career victory, third consecutive points race and 14th at Dover (most).
• Chevrolet earned its sixth victory of 2012 and 32nd win at Dover, both tops among manufacturers.
• Kevin Harvick (second) posted his best Dover finish and only his third top-five finish in 23 races at the track. This is his third top-five of 2012 and first since finishing fourth at Fontana (third).
• Matt Kenseth (third) notched his 13th top-five and 18th top-10 at Dover, most of all tracks he has competed on.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth) scored his fifth top-five of 2012 -- he had only four in all of 2011. This is first top-10 at Dover in the No. 88 in nine starts.
• Clint Bowyer (fifth) earned his best finish of 2012 and best finish at Dover in 13th starts.
• Aric Almirola (sixth) scored his second-best finish in his 48-race career in his first Cup start at Dover.
• Kasey Kahne (ninth) notched his seventh top-10 of 2012, all in the past seven races.

Notes: Mark Martin finished 14th, marking the 30th straight Cup event in which the pole-sitter has failed to win. ... Johnson's victory broke a string of eight straight different Cup winners this season. ... Earnhardt gained one position, moving to third in the standings. He trails Biffle by 10 points. ... The engine in Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota expired after 202 laps. He finished 29th.