By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- Johnson wins in final lap shootout
- Hendrick teammates work together
- Bowyer finishes second in close finish
With a push from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson claimed the win in the Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. All four HMS cars were around at the end to play a role in one of the tightest margins of victory since NASCAR began using electronic scoring.
We had big mo (momentum) on our side.
"I can't thank Junior enough," Johnson said. "So very, very proud of the effort Hendrick Motorsports has put in as always. I think it showed in qualifying and here are our four cars fighting for the win at the end.
"So very proud of that; Chad and Stevie, and the growth of the 48/88 shop, and the way Junior and I worked together today. So very proud of the effort."
Johnson finished 0.002 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Clint Bowyer. This ties the closest margin of victory by Ricky Craven over Kurt Busch at Darlington Raceway in 2003.
Another Hendrick Motorsports duo, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, was leading coming to the white flag, but Bowyer and Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick pulled up beside them for a four-car race to the finish.
Although Johnson was running fifth and Earnhardt Jr. sixth on the backstretch of the final lap, the duo got enough momentum to race up to the inside of Gordon and Martin to make it a six-car battle for the win.
"We had big mo (momentum) on our side," Johnson said.
Just before the checkered flag, the Roush Fenway Racing duo of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle joined the fray.
After the photo finish, NASCAR determined that Johnson was the winner, Bowyer was second, Gordon third, Earnhardt Jr. fourth, Harvick fifth, Edwards sixth, Biffle seventh and Martin eighth.
"It was fun," Bowyer said after the race. "We just came up a little short."
In the melee to the finish there was contact between Martin and Earnhardt that resulted in Martin losing the draft from Gordon and falling back slightly.
All four Hendrick cars started the race in the front two rows, with Gordon starting on the pole. They paired up in twos and the duo of Gordon and Martin and the duo of Johnson and Earnhardt stayed together throughout the race. Each pairing was so committed to each other, that Earnhardt Jr. stopped on pit road during an early stop to wait for Johnson as his car was serviced.
The HMS cars led laps early but fell back through the field to run near the back much of the race before making their moves toward the front to be in position to battle for the win in the late-going.
Meanwhile, the RCR cars stayed near the front most of the day, especially the No. 33 of Bowyer and the No. 31 of his teammate Jeff Burton. Bowyer and Burton ran together much of the day but were shuffled apart during a late- race spin by Ryan Newman as the field scrambled to get around him. It was then that Bowyer hooked up with another one of his teammates -- Harvick.
With the Bowyer/Harvick hookup, Burton joined up with another RCR car -- the No. 27 of Paul Menard. While Harvick and Bowyer were among the eight-man race for the win, Burton and Menard slid back outside the top-10.
Sunday's race produced six cautions, with the last one coming out with 15 laps to go because of a spin by Ryan Newman. Newman managed to not hit anything but brought the caution out when he stopped on the apron because all four of his tires were flat.
There were two multi-car accidents, one involving Brad Keselowski, Trevor Bayne, David Ragan, Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose that was set off when Kurt Busch tagged teammate Keselowski while trying to hook up with him on lap 90.
The other one happened with 49 laps to go when A.J. Allmendinger spun and collected Matt Kenseth. Kyle Busch also received damage from the incident.