Sunday, July 29, 2012

Johnson Dominates at Indianapolis

Coming into the Brickyard 400, Jimmie Johnson was a 3-time Brickyard 400 winner.  But after a dominating performance where he led 99 of 160 laps, Johnson kissed the bricks for the fourth time in his career, joining an elite list of drivers who are four-time winners at Indianapolis, a list that includes Jeff Gordon, AJ Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears.

Jimmie Johnson celebrates with his crew (Courtesy Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin won the pole for the Brickyard 400, and led Carl Edwards and the rest of the field to the green flag. Edwards was able to stay along Hamlin for the first three turns, but Hamlin was able to clear the 99 going into Turn 4 to take the lead.  On lap 4, Jimmie Johnson moved around Carl Edwards for second place, when he powered around Edwards coming off of Turn 2. 

On lap 13, Carl Edwards began to lose power, and he had to come in to the pits to see what was wrong under the hood.  The team believed that they had maybe lost a cylinder, but they instead tried to reset the car, in hopes that it was a computer problem.  When they did that, Edwards thought the car was running a little better.  When Edwards came back out on track, he was scored 41st, 2 laps down.  After running a few laps, he wasn't sure if they had fixed the problem.  The team wanted Edwards to bring the car in so they could put new plug wires on, but Edwards wanted to try and wait until a caution.

While Edwards was having his problems, Jamie McMurray came in for a scheduled pit stop.  His team was trying to short pit, in hopes of making it on five stops.  Around lap 20, with pit stops for some drivers looming, Jimmie Johnson began to cut into Denny Hamlin's lead.

Jimmie Johnson leads Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle (Courtesy Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski pitted on lap 25, and many others began to come in to make their stops, including Joey Logano, Mark Martin, and Greg Biffle..  On lap 28, the leaders came in to make their pit stops.  Hamlin beat Johnson off pit road, but Johnson was able to win a drag race around the exit road coming out of the pits.  It made the difference when stops cycled around on lap 29, when Johnson was scored the leader over Hamlin.

Travis Kvapil hit the wall on lap 40 to bring out the first caution of the day.  Kvapil's right front tire blew and he pounded the outside wall.  The leaders pitted under the caution, and there was a lot of strategy at play under the caution, with many of the leaders taking two tires and fuel.  When Kyle Busch left his pit box, his car lost power when his car sputtered black smoke, which happens when the car gets flooded with fuel.  Busch crossed the pit exit line in third, but by the time he got his car up to speed, he was scored 13th.

Brad Keselowski didn't pit, and led Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson to the green flag.  Keselowski cleared Hamlin, and Johnson was able to get second.  Going through Turn 1, Hamlin got up and out of the groove, and fell back to 15th.  At the same time, Johnson was able to get around Keselowski for the lead.  The caution came out again on lap 48, when Clint Bowyer got damage on the left-rear and was spun into the grass by Juan Pablo Montoya.  Bowyer, who was running 27th at the time, was able to continue. 

Keselowski leads Johnson (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 52, Jimmie Johnson led the field back to the green flag.  Johnson pulled away from Keselowski to clear him heading into Turn 1.  On lap 61, Brad Keselowski gave up a Top 5 spot to make another pit stop.  On lap 69, Kurt Busch came in for a green flag pit stop, and he was penalized for a missing lug nut.  Busch's stop began a long round of green flag pit stops, which didn't end until lap 75.  Brad Keselowski was the leader when the stops cycled around, but by lap 86, Jimmie Johnson was closing in on the Blue Deuce.

On lap 91, Keselowski gave up the lead to make another pit stop.  Keselowski's crew was on a different pit strategy than the rest of the field, and he had to pit about 10 laps sooner than Johnson.  The third caution of the day came out when Casey Mears hit the wall on lap 93.  The field came in to make pit stops, and Regan Smith beat everyone off pit road by just taking fuel, and picked up 12 spots.  Brad Keselowski stayed out and inherited the lead. 
Keselowski led Smith and Johnson to the green flag on lap 101.  In Turn 2, Smith held Keselowski down on the outside, and the 2 car got extremely loose and dropped back in the pack.  Johnson was able to get around Smith for the lead.  Johnson was pulling away from Jeff Gordon when Jeff Burton's left front tire went down to bring out the day's fourth caution on lap 124.  The field came in for what was to be their final stop of the day.  Greg Biffle took two tires and won the race off pit road.

Mark Martin was back behind the wheel in Indy (Courtesy Getty Images)
Biffle led Johnson and Kyle Busch to the green flag on lap 129, and Biffle was able to get the lead when Johnson had a slow start.  Busch and Johnson had some close contact coming out of Turn 2 and that allowed Biffle to get away.  On lap 131, Johnson was able to drive around Biffle for the lead, and he began pulling away.  On lap 133, Joey Logano got loose, and spun down into Bobby Labonte.  The contact with Labonte sent him up into Matt Kenseth, who's car caught fire as it came to a stop. 

The race restarted on lap 140, and Jimmie Johnson was able to speed away from Greg Biffle on the restart.  Biffle and Busch fought side-by-side for second, which allowed Johnson to pull away with the lead.  Busch was able to get second place away from Biffle.  Johnson was able to continue to pull away from Kyle Busch to win his fourth Brickyard 400. 

Kyle Busch was never able to catch Johnson and had to settle for a second place finish.  Greg Biffle finished third.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth, and became the Sprint Cup Series Points Leader.  It is the first time Earnhardt has led the points since September 2004.  Jeff Gordon finished fifth, and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Martin Truex Jr.  Brad Keselowski couldn't overcome the bad restart he had, and finished ninth.  Tony Stewart rounded out the Top 10.  Mark Martin returned to the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine, and finished 11th.  2011 winner Paul Menard finished 14th.  Sam Hornish Jr. finished 16th while filling in for the suspended AJ Allmendinger.  Carl Edwards finished 29th, four laps down, following his problems early in the race.  Matt Kenseth finished 35th and also lost the points lead.

The 2012 Brickyard 400 is in the books, and it has ended the way three previous Brickyards have ended: with Jimmie Johnson kissing the bricks.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series rolls through the Pocono Mountains for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.  I'll be there for all the action, so make sure you follow me on Twitter - @mmarkaholic55 - for live updates all weekend. If you can't be there, you can see it live on ESPN at 12 p.m. next Sunday.

Courtesy Sunoco Racing Facebook Page

No comments:

Post a Comment