Professional racecar driver Jimmie Johnson accomplished more than just one feat when he won NASCAR’s Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race on March 20.
“Yeah, it’s fun to have a paint-out like this on the race auto”, Johnson said in his post-race interview.
Johnson finished with his fastest lap of the race to claim his second win of the young season, adding Fontana to Atlanta. Denny Hamlin overcame an early-race unscheduled pit stop, radio issues and a pit-road speeding penalty to finish third. “I’ve been in the grind on the East Coast for a lot of years”. He side-drafted Harvick and easily got away for his 77th career victory. “Those two (Johnson and Harvick) linked up on the bottom, and there’s really nothing we could have done at that point”. He had actually led throughout 142 laps of the entire race. As the race reached 30 laps to go, several leaders wondered whether they could complete a green-flag run to the finish. Johnson restarted third and pushed Harvick to the lead while taking second for himself.
Jimmie Johnson secured victory at the Auto Club 400 after holding off Kevin Harvick in NASCAR’s version of overtime. “We saved our best for last”. “That (final restart) was worst-case scenario for us”. “We’re not flawless yet or we would be on the pole and leading every lap, but I think we just know we’ve got to be more aggressive changing the vehicle throughout the race”. Martin Truex Jr. was in contention until late contact with Logano. But Harvick couldn’t hold the lead, sliding back to fifth. After everyone else stopped under caution, they restarted on the front row.
“I got a great run off of Turn 2, and I thought ‘Man I’ve got a shot at this thing, ‘” Johnson said of the final restart. “The No. 48 was able to hang with us, and we just weren’t able to drive it in like I needed to, just didn’t have the front tires turning and the back wouldn’t grip”. Harvick quickly took the lead back thanks to a push from Truex Jr., who then promptly took the lead from Harvick.
In the process he clinched a berth in the Chase for the Championship, assuming he starts all the remaining races.
The closest NASCAR race to Hollywood is also the seamiest – as in the seams in the circuit’s oldest asphalt, which is brutal on tires and taxing on the drivers’ skills.
The second caution came out on Lap 48 when Kyle Larson cut a left rear tire, and went hard into the inside safer barrier. He was not injured. By the time I could hit the brakes it must have ripped the brake line and I had no brakes. “It was definitely a hard hit, there, probably one of the harder ones of my career”. He then received one of many Gatorade showers.
Caution Flags: 6 for 33 laps. She was called to the NASCAR hauler, but before getting there, criticized Kahne. Patrick and her team were angry with Kahne for the bump, with Patrick calling Kahne “pretty desperate”. “There wasn’t anywhere for me to go. I think it speaks volumes about what that man is capable of”. I don’t know what kind of day he was having. I just heard he was a lap down. Kyle Busch, Trevor Bayne, rookie Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray comprise the top 10.
Sprint Cup racing resumes April 3 with the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
And Earnhardt Jr.is right: If Johnson keeps winning at this pace (4.8 victories per season), Gordon’s 93 wins should be within reach.
“All the wins are special”, said Johnson.
Hamlin’s 38.194 at 188.511 broke the track record of 188.245 set by teammate Kyle Busch in 2005.