Johnson Wins Coca-Cola 600, Bud Team Sixth Dale Jr. maintains slim points lead Jimmie Johnson dominated Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 but had to survive a restart on lap 397 of 400 to win NASCAR's longest race for the second year in a row. Johnson led...
Johnson Wins Coca-Cola 600, Bud Team Sixth
Dale Jr. maintains slim points lead
Jimmie Johnson dominated Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 but had to survive a restart on lap 397 of 400 to win NASCAR's longest race for the second year in a row. Johnson led 334 laps, including the last 27, for his eighth career victory. Michael Waltrip finished second and Matt Kenseth third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team overcame a lap-down deficit early and used a gutsy call at the end to finish sixth. It was the Bud team's ninth top-10 this year, which ties the series-best. Dale Jr. led only two laps, but they were enough to get him five bonus points, which is now the difference separating himself and Johnson in the NEXTEL Cup championship standings. Dale Jr. has now led laps in nine of the 12 races this year.
Starting in the top-10 for the 10th time this year, Dale Jr. fought among the front 12 all night. But in a race that was slowed by only two cautions through the first 336 of 400 laps, long green-flag runs strung out the field and sent many cars a lap down early, including the red No. 8 car on lap 148. Hard racing and the "lucky dog" award regrouped Dale Jr. with the front-runners on lap 233, and the Bud team spent the second-half of the marathon race adjusting to the changing temperatures of the track. In ninth place when the final caution flew, the Bud team elected for a two-tire pit stop with four laps to go. The strategy - and an awesome restart by the driver - helped the No. 8 clip off three more positions in the final laps.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"Yeah! We'll take that! We really didn't have a good night - we were maybe a 10th-place car at best, but we got the Lucky Dog, then we decided to stop for two tires after the red. We always debate about those things with the single-file restart (with less than 10 laps to go). It was a coin toss, but we made a gutsy call, took two tires, and then it was a wild couple of laps. In the end, it was a helluva move because all of the cars behind us came in as well, so we went back out in the same position we came in, but we had fresher tires than the guys in front of us. We were lucky to gain those spots, but we'll take 'em."
"This is Jimmie's track. They were in another world tonight, so we're happy to have a good finish and keep the points lead. I mean, it's still early, but you kind of look at this place and you can almost hand it to Jimmie and his guys. This is definitely their track."
"I'm really hot. The cool-box in the car quit working - it tore itself right out of the fittings inside the car. So, all of a sudden I had no air at all in there, then it was just hot air blowing on me. This is one of the hardest races in the world, and I am out there with hot air blowin' in my face for 600 miles."
Best Radio Chatter:
Under yellow on lap 233, when the team gained the "Lucky Dog" to climb
back on the lead lap.
Dale Jr: "Do we get the lucky dog?"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "10-4."
Dale Jr: "Cmon now boys! These pit stops are costin' us this race. Everytime we change tires, we get looser. I mean, the 48 (Johnson) is free too - but he can get on the gas much quicker than I can and I just can't keep up with him."
Tony Jr: "Alright - we're gonna try to make you better. You were losing two-tenths (of a second per lap) to the 48 there at the end."
Dale Jr; "Man, Junior. You're the only man in this place that thinks we can get a car to beat the 48 or the 38 (Elliot Sadler). They're in a land of their own today. And it's a tough day at the office for us."
In ninth place, decision time came during a red-flag period on lap five
laps from the finish:
Dale Jr.: "Wanna gamble?"
Tony Jr.: "Nah, we're gonna stay out. I don't think I can do any more for ya, unless you want four tires. I'll put four on for ya if you think it will help."
Dale Jr.: "This is the same thing we always go through ... neither of us want to be the bad guy. How many spots do we have to lose?"
Tony Jr.: "Four."
Dale Jr.: "Well you know at least one or two of them are gonna pit, that's the thing."
Tony Jr. (after discussing with the team): "Come on around here, just pit and I'll put ya two tires on there."
Dale Jr.: "OK. If people follow us, let's take two (tires). If we're the only ones, put on four."
Relishing in successful strategy at race's end:
Stevie Reeves (spotter): "Helluva job on that restart!"
Dale Jr.: "Hell yeah, that got us a couple spots!"