Jimmie Johnson grabbed his second win of the season in dramatic fashion by making a last lap charge on a green/white/checker restart to steal the win from Matt Kenseth. Kenseth led a race high 146 laps but lost it to Johnson coming out of turn...
Jimmie Johnson grabbed his second win of the season in dramatic fashion by making a last lap charge on a green/white/checker restart to steal the win from Matt Kenseth. Kenseth led a race high 146 laps but lost it to Johnson coming out of turn four as they approached the checkered flag.
It is Johnson's second win second since crew chief Chad Knaus was ejected from the race track for rule infractions that occurred during Speedweeks in Daytona. Knaus was suspended from the garage and cannot return until Bristol; which is two weeks away.
"I didn't want to crash the car trying to get extra speed out of it," said Johnson. "There were times we were tight and we just kept working on the car. The plan was to be descriptive (with how the car was handling) and stay in the top five.
"To tell you the truth I think if that last caution wouldn't have come out we would have been close to Matt's bumper but we wouldn't have won."
This has been a spectacular beginning to Johnson's season notwithstanding the incident with Knaus; in three events he has finished 1-2-1 and always runs strong at Atlanta Motor Speedway where the Cup series is headed next weekend.
"We're off to a great start," Johnson said. "From driving the car today, we had a great car but I know we can get it better. Hopefully we can get to where we need to be and win the championship."
Despite being the class of the field for the majority of the race Kenseth had to settle for second. It's a bit of déjà vu for Kenseth who also finished second in the Busch race on Saturday.
"I did everything I could," explained Kenseth. "If I tried any harder I was going to wreck or wreck him.we just got beat."
Kyle Busch was third and thankful for making it to the end. Busch was involved in a battle for position with Tony Stewart late in the race when he pleaded over the radio for someone to talk to NASCAR before Stewart killed him. Luckily, when Stewart faded with tire issues Busch was clear to earn his first top five of the season.
"I had the best seat in the house," said Busch. "I had a great race car all day.it was one of the best cars we have ever had at Vegas. We came up one spot short of what we did last year, but that might have been because we were loose there in the end.but it was great to run so well in front of the hometown crowd."
Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon completed the top five.
"We're three races in and we've been consistent in the first three," Kahne commented. "We've just got to keep doing the same stuff and stay focused on finishing races. Everybody is doing a good job. We've got to keep communicating. We'll go for wins if we get opportunities, but we have to points' race. We have to stay in the top 10 and make it into the Chase."
Greg Biffle brought the field to the green flag but he didn't stay out front long. On lap three, Stewart powered past to grab the position. As the 16 and the 20 battled for position it didn't take long for the field behind them to get strung out.
Stewart had just started to lap cars when Reed Sorenson hit the wall on lap 40 bringing out the first caution flag. That brought the leaders to pit road with Mark Martin beating Stewart off for the lead on the restart at lap 47. The lapped car of Ryan Newman wedged between Martin and Stewart preventing the No. 20 Chevy from making a run on Martin.
By the time Stewart got past Newman, Martin had a healthy lead on the field leaving Stewart to play catch up. Martin was still in the lead at lap 90 when Newman smacked the wall hard in turn three.
The No. 6 Ford made it off pit road in the first position on the restart at lap 97 but this time Stewart managed to rocket past Martin earning the lead but it only lasted until lap 101 when Kenseth took the position.
The third caution waved at lap 106 when Joe Nemechek took a spin through the infield grass. Martin continued to lead on the restart at lap 112 with Stewart having a long four tire stop slipping him to seventh.
At lap 118, Martin started to fade allowing Biffle and Kenseth to both get by for the 1-2 spots, with Kenseth then overtaking the No. 16 for the lead. Kenseth was still in the lead when the fourth caution fell on lap 157.
The leaders pitted with Kenseth still on top at the restart on lap 160. He led through the day's fifth caution period and subsequent pit stops at lap 189. It was 77 to go on the restart with Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Stewart as the top three cars.
Kenseth was out front when the sixth yellow for debris came out on lap 234 and stayed the leader through a round of service stops and the restart on lap 237. Kenseth's biggest competition Stewart but the aforementioned tire problems caused him to freefall through the field as the race wound down.
Johnson was just trying to put the moves on Kenseth when the caution fell on lap 265 setting up a green/white/checker finish. Kenseth managed to keep it up front for the restart but Johnson made a last lap bid for the win scoring his 20th NASCAR Nextel Cup series win in his 150th start.
Johnson's win secures his spot at the top of the Nextel point standings. Matt Kenseth (-52), Kasey Kahne (-85), Casey Mears (-86), Mark Martin (-110), Kyle Busch (-137), Clint Bowyer (-151), Elliott Sadler (-155), Jeff Gordon (-166) and Jeff Burton (-167) complete the top ten.
Notably, Stewart's problems relegated him to a 21st place finish which places the reigning series champion 19th in points.
There were seven cautions for 30 laps and 11 lead changes among 22 drivers.