Joe Jennings, NASCAR Correspondent
Indianapolis, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson totally dominated the Crown Royal 400 Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. From the start, Johnson gained the advantage and no one was able to challenge him. In total, he led 99 of the 160 laps and his margin of victory was a plush 4.758 seconds.
The winner drove the Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports and in winning, he gave Chevrolet its 10th consecutive victory at Indianapolis. For his career, Johnson has amassed 58 victories.
To come here and win is a huge honor. And to win four – four wins! I’m at a loss for words.
In winning one of NASCAR’s premier races for the fourth time in 11 tries, Johnson not only tied teammate Jeff Gordon for the most wins in the event, he moved into exalted company with the likes of A. J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, who scored four victories in the Indianapolis 500. Michael Schumacher leads in Indianapolis victories with five.
The race marked the 19th appearance of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the famed track.
Said Johnson in victory lane, “To come here and win is a huge honor. And to win four – four wins! I’m at a loss for words. It was a total team effort, and we put it to them today. It was nice.
“I can remember watching the 500 on the couch with my grandfather, and I remember him telling me he came to Indy. Man, you just hope to race here, and it is nice to create my own family memories here.”
Johnson said he realized after qualifications that he had a car that could win the race. “I slept well last night knowing I had such a good car and feeling that today was going to be my day. Winning is great but the way you win is just as important,” said the driver, admitting that he enjoyed wearing down the competition.
As for concerns, he said his biggest challenge arose on the second to last restart when Greg Biffle got by him. “I spun my tires and Greg got away from me, and then I was side-by-side with Kyle Busch. That was my moment of panic when I thought I had lost the race, but then I was able to get back into the lead. On the last restart, I got away quickly and was able to manage it.”
He went on to say that he knew Busch was closing in at the end, and he didn’t want to be involved in a replay of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 when J. R. Hildebrand lost the race in the final turn.
Crew chief Chad Knaus was thrilled with the victory and said attention to detail made the difference. “Today was a lot of fun and we gave a good accounting,” he said. “This is the car we raced and won with at Dover when it was brand new. The guys at Hendrick took a lot of time putting the car together for this race, and it is the details that make the difference.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick was beaming from ear to ear and couldn’t camouflage his pride for the team’s effort. “Every time you come here you realize how important this place is, knowing the history of the track and the legends that have raced here,” he said, going on to say that Johnson told him yesterday how good of a car he had. “Today the equipment is so equal, you have to look at the talent of Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and our crew.”
Hendrick Motorsports has now won eight of the 19 Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis.
En route to the checkered flag, Johnson completed the 400 miles in two hours and 54 minutes at an average speed of 137.680 miles per hour.
According to the track’s estimate, 125,000 fans attended the race.
Busch managed to stave off the other contenders to finish second in the M&M’s Toyota.
“We had a really good car today,” Busch said. My team brought a phenomenal piece here, and we worked on it well this weekend. When we unloaded it off the truck, it felt pretty comfortable, and the laps in the nationwide car helped me a little bit.”
Addressing Johnson’s convincing run, Busch said, “If it wasn’t for the No. 48, we were probably in our zip code on the rest of the field, but Jimmie Johnson was in his own country today, so we just couldn’t keep up with him.”
Third went to the 3M Ford of Greg Biffle, giving Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford a one-two-three finish.
“Well, it was a pretty good day for us,” the Ford driver said. “But my car was loose all day, and it made it difficult to drive after about four or five laps. At the end, we did two tires, and I thought a lot of other people would, and it turned out most everybody did four. That hurt us a little bit, but we did end up third.”
Regarding Johnson’s dominance, he stated, “It didn’t really matter if you were in front of him or not, he was going to pass you in about four or five laps anyway. His car was just really, really good.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a valiant effort to overtake Biffle but could never get alongside him, finishing fourth. With his solid run, he took over the Sprint Cup Series point lead, advancing into the lead after leader Matt Kenseth crashed out of the race, ending up a distant 35th.
“I had about a fourth- to eighth-place car, but I just seemed to get some good fortune on those restarts at the end,” Earnhardt said. “The car was fast, and I was trying to pass Biffle but couldn’t get no closer than I was.”
Regarding the point lead, he added, “If you run in the top five or top-10 enough, you will get points. But we would like to win some more races.”
Jeff Gordon ran in the top-10 for much of the race to end up fifth.
The sixth through 10th place finishers were Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart.
Carl Edwards started from the front but fell back quickly with engine problems. He pitted when the problems persisted, and among other things, the team replaced the spark plugs. Losing laps during the process, he trudged to a 29th place finish, four laps behind the winner.
Five caution periods slowed the race for 25 laps. Three were one-car incidents, one was for debris, and the last accident involved four cars, including Kenseth.
In the point parade, Earnhardt is first followed by Kenseth (-14), Biffle (-22), Johnson (-27) and Hamlin (-27). Kevin Harvick, Truex, Stewart, Keselowski and Bowyer complete the 1op-10 with Kyle Busch in 11th, 55 out of the 10th spot. Edwards is six behind Busch in 12th.