Sunday, June 3, 2012

Johnson Continues Hendrick's Dominance

Hendrick Motorsports struggled to win race No. 200, but after Jimmie Johnson won at Darlington, Hendrick Motorsports swept the Sprint Showdown, the All-Star Race, and the Coca-Cola 600.  This week, their domination continued with Jimmie Johnson winning the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson celebrates with his crew (Courtesy Getty Images)
Mark Martin won his third pole of the season, and he led the field to the green.  Jimmie Johnson started on the outside, and he was able to clear Martin coming out of Turn 2.  On lap 7, Martin got back around Johnson for the lead.  The first caution came out on lap 9, when Tony Stewart made contact with Landon Cassill.  Regan Smith, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Gilliland, Scott Speed, Stephen Leicht, Dave Blaney, Michael McDowell, and Joe Nemechek were also involved.  The red flag came out while the track officials had to clean up the track, which had been completely blocked with the carnage.  The yellow flag came back out after a 20-minute red flag.

The race restarted on lap 13, and this time Mark Martin picked the outside lane to begin the race.  The move payed off, and Martin was able hold off Johnson for the lead.  Martin was able to hold the lead until lap 30, when Johnson got back around him for the lead.  On lap 60, Mark Martin was able to get around Johnson once again, and he led until green flag pit stops on lap 72.  Following pit stops, the top 5 were Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon.

This lap 9 crash caused a 20-minute red flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 84, Jimmie Johnson got around Mark Martin for the lead.  He held the lead until lap 111, when the caution came out for a blown engine by David Reutimann.  Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag when the restart came on lap 117, followed by Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon.  Kyle Busch was able to get around Mark Martin to take third place following the restart. 

On lap 164, Carl Edwards had a tire go down and he slapped the outside wall to bring out the third caution of the day.  The race went green again on lap 169, and Johnson led Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth.  Just past halfway, on lap 203, Kyle Busch's engine let go, and he pulled it into the garage; the race stayed green.  On lap 211, Jeff Gordon was able to get around Jimmie Johnson for the lead, and began to pull away from him.  On lap 226, the fourth caution came out for debris on the frontstretch.  When the race restarted on lap 232, Jeff Gordon led Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. races teammate Kasey Kahne (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 249, Jeff Gordon reported that there was something "weird" going on with his car, and two laps later he came in to pit for what he believed to be a loose wheel.  When Gordon got back out, he was two laps down, but he was quickly able to get around Johnson to get one of his laps back.  On lap 291, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and AJ Allmendinger hit pit road to begin another round of green-flag pit stops.  The round of stops was done by lap 300, and Jeff Gordon got his lap back and was scored as the leader.  He was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski.

Gordon pitted on lap 324, hoping that the race would stay green and he would not have to pit again.  On lap 340, however, another caution came out for debris, ruining Jeff Gordon's plans for the race.  When the race restarted on lap 344, Jimmie Johnson led Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Aric Almirola; Jeff Gordon restarted 18th.  On lap 345, Kurt Busch's engine blew, bringing out the sixth caution of the race.  The race restarted on lap 352, with Jimmie Johnson leading Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Bowyer. 

Jeff Gordon races with Mark Martin (Courtesy Getty Images)
Jeff Burton's engine let go with 37 laps to go to bring out the race's seventh caution.  The race restarted with 32 laps to go, with Jimmie Johnson leading Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer.  Johnson pulled away from Harvick, and he was never able to catch the No. 48 car.  Jimmie Johnson won his second race of the season, and his seventh career race at Dover.  Kevin Harvick finished second, Matt Kenseth third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth, and Clint Bowyer fifth.  Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top 10.  Points-leader Greg Biffle finished 11th, and Brad Keselowski finished 12th.  Jeff Gordon's pit strategy didn't work out the way they had hoped, and he finished 13th.  Pole-sitter Mark Martin finished 14th.  Denny Hamlin finished 18th, and Kurt Busch finished 24th after blowing his engine.  Tony Stewart was able to come back to finish 25th, while Carl Edwards would finish 26th.  Kyle Busch blew an engine around halfway, and finished 29th.

Jimmie Johnson continues Hendrick Motorsports' domination by winning at Dover for the third Hendrick win in as many races.  While the race was dominated by Johnson, Dick Berggren dominated everyone's thoughts throughout the race weekend.  Berggren was retiring from FOX's NASCAR coverage, and was going to begin building a motorsports museum in New Hampshire.  This weekend was also the final race for FOX for the 2012 season.  Next week, the race will be shown on TNT; at 12 p.m., the Sprint Cup Series will roll into the "Tricky Triangle," Pocono International Raceway, for the Pocono 400.

Courtesy Getty Images

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