Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
The Monster, as in the ”Monster Mile” that is Dover (Del.) International Speedway was no match for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on Sunday, as Johnson took the lead early and kept his No. 48 out front for 289 of 400 laps, including the final 76 of the race, on his way to the race win.
"It was a team effort," Johnson said. "Obviously, I had a great Lowe's Chevrolet."
Kevin Harvick overcame a bad pit stop when he overshot his pit stall with his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to finish second, and Matt Kenseth finished third in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
I think that No. 24 was the car to beat.
Johnson started second but took the lead from pole sitter Mark Martin in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota on lap one.
The race was red flagged soon after a 13-car pileup, the largest wreck of the season, brought out a caution on lap nine. Casualties included reigning series champion Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Regan Smith in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet and Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota.
"I got into the back of the No. 14 and started the whole thing," Smith said. I take full blame for that. Somehow, they got checked up in front of me, and I didn't have time to get slowed up with it."
While Smith accepted blame for the incident, Stewart didn't hold him responsible.
"The No. 83 was trying to get back down to the bottom and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Stewart said. "It wasn't Regan's fault. He was right behind us, and he didn't have anywhere to go, either."
Once the race went back to green and the action settled down somewhat, Johnson and Martin swapped the lead several times, as the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon made his way toward the front.
"I think that No. 24 was the car to beat," Johnson said.
By lap 105, Johnson had taken command of the top spot and Gordon was up to third. Gordon made his way into the runner-up position by lap 145 and set his sights on teammate Johnson and the lead.
Gordon took that lead on lap 215, just in time for a debris caution that came out a few laps later on lap 226. Harvick, who headed down pit road in the third position, overshot his pit stall for a slow stop that sent him back to 18th.
"To be able to make up that track position says a lot about how far we've come with the cars," Harvick said after the race."
Gordon and Johnson, though, had flawless stops and restarted the race first and second.
Johnson reclaimed the lead from Gordon on lap 246, and Gordon began to fall off the pace. He later made a green-flag pit stop on lap 251 to remedy a loose left rear wheel.
"We had the best race car," Gordon said. "We cannot afford to make mistakes."
Being off sequence didn't seem like such a big deal once the rest of the field cycled through green-flag stops on lap 291. After the cycle, Gordon was shown as the leader, since he didn't make a stop.
As his teammate, Johnson, continued to run up front, Gordon planned to split the remaining 150 laps of the race into two 75-lap segments. As a result, he made his final green-flag stop of the race with 75 laps to go.
The plan didn't work out, though, as the yellow flag waved on lap 340, negating the chances of the rest of the field cycling through another round of green-flag stops. While the other lead lap cars pitted under caution, Gordon stayed out to take the wave-around and got back on the lead lap.
Johnson maintained his lead on the restart, and another Hendrick driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet, moved into second. Earnhardt continued to run second to his teammate until the next restart after a caution with 56 laps to go. By that time, Harvick was back near the front and took the runner-up spot for the No. 88.
Earnhardt lost another position on a restart, losing third to Kenseth on the restart that followed the last caution of the race with 37 laps to go.
Earnhardt held on to finish fourth, and Clint Bowyer was fifth in the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Gordon wound up 13th.