Johnson becomes all-time winningest driver at Dover

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Johnson earns fifth Sprint Cup this season, and his first in The Chase at Dover International Speedway. Teammate Earnhardt Jr gives Hendrick team 1-2 finish.

Jimmie Johnson kept his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet out in from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet in the closing laps of the AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sunday to claim his eighth-career win at Dover, the most of any other driver in NASCAR history.

"We came to a good track, and we got what we needed to get done," Johnson said.

Earnhardt finished second while Johnson collected maximum points for the race win and leading to the most laps to climb to second in the championship points standings, eight behind leader Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano finished third.

"That was really disappointing, there," Earnhardt said of his inability to pass Johnson, who was on two older tires. "But Jimmie was just that fast."

Earnhardt took four tires during the fourth and final caution of the race that came out on lap 369. He came out fourth, the same position in which he was running before the caution, and was the first driver with four fresh tires behind Johnson, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon and Kenseth. Earnhardt was able to get by both Gordon and Kenseth as soon as the race returned to green, but Johnson remained out front to lead the rest of the way. In all, Johnson led 243 laps of the 400 that made up the race.

Earnhardt led the race early after starting from the pole, leading 76 laps before missing pit road on his first attempt to pit during a cycle of green flag pit stops just past lap 110. After the cycle completed, he was eighth in the running order, while Johnson inherited the lead.

"I take full responsibility for being a little too eager to get on pit road," Earnhardt said. "Messed up getting on pit road, for sure."

For awhile, the top-three drivers in the points standings heading into Dover -- Kenseth, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch and Johnson -- all maintained positions in the top-three. Earnhardt recovered from his pit road miscue, though, and moved into second on a restart that followed a caution at lap 226. Several laps later, Gordon moved into third, giving Hendrick Motorsports the top-three in the running order.

The field cycled through green-flag stops with about 90 laps to go, leaving most drivers just outside the window of being able to go the rest of the way on fuel. A few drivers, including Gordon, went into fuel conservation mode, planning to go the distance, while most of the other front runners planned on one final stop for a splash of fuel in the closing laps.

"I was saving most of that run and had that strategy down, for sure," Gordon said.

But the yellow flag waved one final time on lap 369, eliminating the fuel mileage gamble, as everyone heading down pit road. Then the decision became one of two tires or four. Logano, like Earnhardt, took four, and also like Earnhardt, gained positions in the remaining laps. Johnson was the only one who didn't lose positions on two tires.

"Two worked good for us in practice," Johnson said. "Track position really gave me the advantage I needed to hold him (Earnhardt) off."

Gordon dropped from second to fourth by the finish, getting passed by Logano. Kenseth dropped back to seventh, as Busch got by him to finish fifth, and the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick finished sixth.

The No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman finished eighth, the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Greg Biffle was ninth and the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10.

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race report
Tags biffle, bowyer, busch, chevrolet, dover, earnhardt, ford, gordon, harvick, hendrick, johnson, kenseth, logano, nascar sprint cup, newman, toyota