Sometimes there’s just tracks where even before the haulers enter the facility, one knows who the top driver will be. It’s the one that historically has been dominant, and consistently is near the front, or at the front, at each event. That does not happen very often, but every now and then it is just well known who the guy to beat at a certain place will be.
In the case with Dover, a.k.a. the Monster Mile, that man is Jimmie Johnson.
Entering the third race in the Chase, Johnson had very little momentum on the side of his team. He and the crew had difficult times right before the Chase began, with tough finishes, wrecks, and circumstances that simply were out of their control. Normally they enter the title picture as the ones to beat anyway, but this year it seemed like they weren’t meshing when needed.
But then came Dover, a track that he and crew chief Chad Knaus have seen extremely successful results. Without question it was the moment that fans and competitors knew that Johnson would be at his best.
His last win at this track came last year in the spring, a race that he is remembered for due to the crazy wig he wore in victory lane, and his send-off to long-time pit reporter, Dr. Dick Bergeron. But since that time he had not seen victory, yet everyone knew he would be strong once they unloaded.
Sure enough, when Johnson got the lead, he set the pace, and the tone for the rest of the field. Sure, he had to worry about teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. late in the race, as the classic two tires vs. four tires battle continued, but in the end the Lowes/Kobalt Tools team got the job done.
Consider this, with his win on Sunday, Johnson becomes the all-time leader in wins at Dover with eight, bettering drivers such as Richard Petty and Mark Martin. Not only that, but there are still many years left in his career, so that win total could continue to grow as the years pass.
The win also moves Johnson up to second in the standings, just eight behind the man that won the first two Chase events, Matt Kenseth. Is he the favorite in this year’s Chase…not really, but he’s creeping up. Watch out, there are still many “Johnson tracks” left in the Chase, so another win is not out of the cards.
RESULTS: 1-Johnson 2-Earnhardt Jr. 3-Logano 4-Gordon 5-Kyle Busch 6-Harvick 7-Kenseth 8-Newman 9-Biffle 10-Bowyer
NOTABLE FINISHES: 13-Kahne 21-Kurt Busch 29-Patrick 35-Edwards 37-Keselowski
CAUTIONS: 4 for 21 laps. Lap 38-42 (Debris-T3), 166-170 (Debris-T1), 229-235 (Fluid on track), 371-374 (Debris-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 19 among 8 drivers. Earnhardt Jr. 1-25, Kenseth 26-30, Earnhardt Jr. 31-39, Gilliland 40, Kyle Busch 41-70, Newman 71-75, Earnhardt Jr. 76-117, Gordon 118-119, Johnson 120-165, Newman 166, Kenseth 167-197, Johnson 198-229, Earnhardt Jr. 230, Johnson 231-310, Earnhardt Jr. 311-312, Gordon 313, Bowyer 314, Johnson 315-370, Earnhardt Jr. 371, Johnson 372-400.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 3 Mins, 20 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 130.909 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.446 Seconds
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP: 1. Kenseth, 2149 points; 2. Johnson, -8; 3. Kyle Busch, -12; 4. Harvick, -39; 5. Gordon, -39; 6. Biffle, -41; 7. Newman, -48; 8. Bowyer, -51; 9. Kurt Busch, -55; 10. Earnhardt Jr, -57; 11. Edwards, -65; 12. Logano, -66; 13. Kahne, -78