Despite the crashes in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fourth of July race under the lights, Jimmie Johnson notched his second win in 2013 at the Daytona International Speedway.
The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson was in front of the field for 93 laps in the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Saturday en route to the race win.
"It's to do that (dominate) at a plate track, especially with the rules as tight as they are," Johnson said. "We showed we were strong early, so everybody wanted to work with us."
The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Tony Stewart finished second, and the No. 29 Richard Childress Chevrolet of Keven Harvick took third to give Chevrolet a sweep of the top-three.
The win, added with his Daytona 500 win in February, gave Johnson a sweep of 2013 points races at the track, the first Daytona sweep since Bobby Allison won both races in 1982. It was also Johnson's fourth win of the season, tying him with Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, for most victories so far this year.
When the race resumed, Johnson restarted just in front of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Chevrolet. The teammates moved out in front of the field, but then Johnson moved up in front of the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Marcos Ambrose. A couple of laps later, Ambrose drove to the middle between Johnson and Kahne in an attempt to take the lead, but as Johnson moved down, so did Ambrose, forcing Kahne low where he lost control and hit the outside retaining wall.
Kahne's wreck brought out the yellow flag for the fifth and final time with five laps to go, resulting in a green-white-checker attempt that added a lap to the scheduled 160-lap distance, but the wrecking wasn't over.
"I didn't get as good a restart as I wanted, but it worked out in our benefit," Stewart said. "I'm just glad I was ahead of all of the carnage."
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch looked to be the dominant car early. Busch started on the pole and led 29 of the first 31 laps of the race when he was passed by Johnson for the lead. Busch's car later sustained damage just before lap 100 as a result of a wreck that involved the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin and the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Juan Montoya.
Johnson did get mired back in the field briefly at one point in the race. Several cars began cycling three green-flag pit stops on lap 68, but before the entire field hit pit road, the yellow flag waved on lap 70 when the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano suffered a tire issue that sent him into the wall.
"It was a right-front," Logano said. "I don't really know what it was. I really don't think I ran anything over and in looking it over, it looks like a shoulder failure to me. I don't know why. I haven't seen any tire issues out here."
Johnson was among those who hadn't yet stopped, so head headed down pit road during the caution. Those who pitted previously under green, including Hamlin and the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray stayed out on the race track to restart up front. Hamlin restarted with the lead, but McMurray got by him to take the top spot on lap 93. By that time, Johnson had made his way back toward the front and followed McMurray by Hamlin to take second. Johnson moved back into the lead on the around the 100-lap mark.
There was one other multi-car incident that brought out the fourth caution of the race with 34 to go. That wreck involved the No. 30 Swan Racing Toyota of David Stremme, the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Aric Almirola, Allmendinger and the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Greg Biffle.
The No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Clint Bowyer finished fourth, followed by the car owner, Michael Waltrip, in the No. 55 MWR Toyota in a rare start behind the wheel. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet of Kurt Busch was sixth, while McMurray finished seventh. The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eighth, and the No. 13 Germain Racing Ford of Casey Mears finished ninth. Mears was the only Ford driver to finish in the top-10.
"It was okay, but we should have been better," Mears said. That second-to-last restart, we restarted eighth and the 15 laid way back on the restart and had a huge run. There were three lanes open. The bottom lane moved to the bottom and I had like three lanes to try to block, and he had a run and got to the inside of us and we dropped all the way to the back. But we had a really big run there at the end and picked the right lane and got through a bunch of guys, so that's not the way we wanted to finish because we were sitting in the catbird's seat there where I thought we could have had a chance to win this thing, but we rallied back for a decent day."