Jimmie Johnson saved fuel and let the race come to him with seven laps remaining. The Hendrick Motorsport driver was there at the end to take the checker flag in today's Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire International Speedway, but his teammate,...
Jimmie Johnson saved fuel and let the race come to him with seven laps remaining. The Hendrick Motorsport driver was there at the end to take the checker flag in today's Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire International Speedway, but his teammate, Jeff Gordon, ran with only three laps remaining in the 294-lap race.
Johnson made a gutsy late race move, pitting for fuel with 25 laps to go. He then patiently worked his way back to the front of the field to score his third victory of the season.
"At the end, we did gas only and the car was handling so well we were able to stay out on older tires and bring it home," said Johnson.
It was a great recovery for Team 48, whose race was marred by a pit road accident on lap 128. Johnson was pitted when teammate Jeff Gordon tried to thread the needle between the No. 48 Chevy and Michael Waltrip.
Waltrip slid into Gordon, pushing the No. 24 into Johnson's right front and knocking three of his crewmembers down. Tire carrier Ryan McCray, tire changer Cory Quick and jackman Chris Anderson were all bruised but not seriously injured.
"We had to overcome a lot of adversity and it took the whole team to do it, and we did it," said Johnson.
The incident on pit road forced Johnson to make an extra stop for repairs. He restarted 22nd. But Johnson's fast Chevy would not be denied, as he picked his way through the pack and dealt with temperamental competitors to earn his sixth career victory.
Ward Burton and Jimmie Johnson beat and banged on each other several times, before Johnson tapped him at lap 148.
"I ended up getting tangled up with Ward Burton and I'm sorry for that," Johnson said. "He was racing me really hard and I was racing hard, too, and I got loose and caught him going into (turn) one and put him into the wall."
Burton tried in vain to exact revenge on Johnson, but in the end the No. 48 cruised to the record books. Johnson is the only driver to ever sweep the season's races at NHIS.
Once again, the headline of the day had a fuel strategy tag line. Kevin Harvick, whose temper was the big story last weekend, ran out of gas while in the lead, fourteen laps from the finish. Harvick's teammate Robby Gordon also miscalculated. He was leading at lap 293, when he ran out of gas.
Outside of fuel consumption and penalties, the race was a mini-crash fest. Taking the worst hit was Dale Jarrett. While in 11th position for a restart on lap 161, Jarrett was caught up in a multi-car accident.
"I got hit in the left rear and turned around," stated Jarrett after his release from the infield medical center where he was treated for a bruised right knee. "I just hit my knee on the steering column."
Jarrett's Ford banged the wall hard before catching fire and coming to rest in the middle of the track at the start/finish line. Jarrett finished 41st.
For the second week in a row, Ricky Rudd lands a top-three finish, in second.
"These short tracks have been pretty good for us all year," said Rudd. "We just need to work on the bigger tracks where the aerodynamics are critical. We're not quite there yet. I don't know if we're closer. When we get back to Kansas - we're gonna go there and test and find out - but definitely the short track program has come on and these guys have done a great job. They did a good job in the pits."
Joe Nemechek, Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (who led the most laps) round out the top five.
Earnhardt lost a cylinder 120-laps into the event, which took him out of contention for the win.
"We had the best car, and then about 120 laps in I lost a cylinder," said Earnhardt. "So we had to run the rest of the race with seven cylinders. The car was still pretty good after that. I just had to make everything up in the corner that I was losing on the straightaway, and we were already going through the corner about as good as we could before that. It was a good job by my guys to pit the car when they did to get us out and get a top-five. I led a lot of laps. On eight cylinders, we had the car to beat."
The strong finish doesn't really help Earnhardt make-up ground on point leader Matt Kenseth. Kenseth finished 7th, and sits 404 points in the lead. Kevin Harvick remains third, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman.