Johnson Masters the Monster Mile for a Record-Setting Ninth Time
DOVER, Del. - Jimmie Johnson experienced how quickly NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) fortunes can change this season by transforming from a winless six-time champion to a back-to-back race winner in the eight-day span from Charlotte Motor Speedway's May 25 Coca-Cola 600 to Dover International Speedway's June 1 400-mile race.
He raced his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports machine to a series track-leading ninth Dover International Speedway victory Sunday by leading a dominating 272 of 400 race laps and holding off Brad Keselowski's Team Penske No. 2 by 0.885 of a second off a Lap 397 restart.
Johnson's victory represents his 13th top-five and 19th top-10 finish through 25 starts as well as the 35th for manufacturer Chevrolet on the one-mile concrete track known as "The Monster Mile."
"It was an awesome racecar," Johnson said in Victory Lane. "The first run, I wasn't sure we were really going to have the normal Dover magic here. Once the track rubbered in, our car came to life and it was so good. It's amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules and different tires. This place just fits my style and (crew chief) Chad Knaus' style."
While racing with the utmost confidence in his car, Johnson had to overcome uncertainty when the final caution flag flew on Lap 394 for debris in Turn 3.
"(With) 10 (laps) to go, I was just hoping it (the race) would stay green, and then when the caution came out. Cautions at the end, you can kind of expect them for whatever reason, and truthfully it's an opportunity for the guy that's dominated all day to make a mistake, so I wanted to make sure I chose the right lane and got a good restart and got up through the gears well, and that all worked out for us," he said.
Keselowski, who started from the pole position for the second time this season and on the front row for the eighth time through 13 races, led only Lap 362 and saw his impressive closing-laps charge come up just shy of his second victory of the season. He did register his fifth top-five and sixth top-10 finish of the campaign.
"We just had an up-and-down day," Keselowski said. "I started up front, and that's a part, and faded to the back pretty early in the race. Just weren't where we needed to be in the car.
"(Crew chief) Paul Wolfe and the team made some good adjustments and got us where we needed to be, and took back off and had a couple really strong runs. We drove from 13th or 14th up to second. I thought we were going to get a crack at Jimmie and then that last caution came out and we just kind of whiffed on pit road, came out way behind."
Joe Gibbs Racing's (JGR) Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line third place, Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer took fourth place and JGR's Denny Hamlin rolled across the finish line fifth.
Kenseth takes over the series championship lead with his second straight and fifth top-five finish of the season. He'll hold a slim two-point edge on Hendrick Motorsports' driver Jeff Gordon, who surrendered the top spot in the championship with a 15th-place finish that ended his string of two top-10 finishes.
NASCAR's three national series visit Kentucky Speedway June 26-28 for a three-race event weekend featuring the NSCS Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled over and Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225.
Tickets, ticket packages, Kroger Fan Zone passes that provide a stage-side view of Thomas Rhett's Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts race-day concert, and campsites can be reserved through the respective pages of this website, by calling (859) 578-2300 or visiting the speedway ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive, Sparta, Ky., 41086 just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.
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