Jimmie Johnson once again has brought the #48 Lowe’s/ Kobalt Tools Chevrolet to victory lane at Dover International Speedway after winning the 44th Annual AAA 400 with a strategic pit call of 2 tires during the last caution.
Johnson now holds the record for the most wins at Dover with 8 victories. His last victory had tied him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty with seven wins on the concrete mile.
“It’s incredible to do anything that Bobby or Richard has done, it is quite an accomplishment we have had a few sneak away from us here too over the years,” Johnson said in victory lane about his record win. “Just so happy to get that done and be the leader of race wins. It’s a very special day.”
Johnson in true form dominated as is usual at the Monster Mile leading 243 of the 400 laps for today’s race. He swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and won one of the Dover races in 2005, 2010, and 2012 and now 2013.
A late race caution, for debris in Turn 3, changed the strategy of the race, which left 26 laps remaining. Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth gambled with each taking two tires the three drivers came off of pit road as the first three cars, but Dale Earnhardt Jr., the first driver who took four fresh tires came off in fourth place.
On the final restart, Earnhardt Jr. shot to second place with two fresher tires and 26 laps remaining to chase down his teammate, but Earnhardt Jr. was never able to get within a half second of the #48, and Johnson rolled to his record breaking 8th victory.
“I thought we might be able to get to him and I was definitely going to do whatever I could to win,” Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. “If I could get him within reach but I just couldn’t even get to him.”
“Jimmie’s just really that fast, he’s that good around this place,” said Earnhardt Jr. about his teammate.
Earnhardt Jr. had one of the fastest cars, and went from holding a 3.7 second lead on Johnson, but he missed pit road and gave up the lead early in the race and ended up trailing by over 9 seconds after he was able to make his pit stop. But the #88 National Guard Chevrolet was powerful enough to get back into the race to contend for what would have been his first win of the season but wasn’t able to catch, let alone pass Johnson.
“The mistake I made coming onto pit road and missing pit road completely (cost us),” said Earnhardt Jr. “It I had not given up that track position and had a smart enough race to keep the lead when it counted, right at the end we might have won the race. It would have been hard to get by us just like it was hard to get by Jimmie.”
In victory lane after the race team owner Rick Hendrick said, “It’s unbelievable how good that guy is here, he’s got a feel for this place and I think he’s going to win some more before it’s over.
Along with Johnson’s recording breaking win, Chad Knaus has the most wins as a crew chief at Dover. NASCAR Hall of Famer and Co-founder of Woods Brother Racing, Leonard Woods and Knaus shared the record before today’s victory.
With Johnson leading the way, this is the first time in the Chase history that the entire top ten been made up of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship contenders. Earnhardt Jr. finished second, Joey Logano finished third, Jeff Gordon finished fourth and Kyle Busch finished fifth. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer round out the top ten drivers of today's race.
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heading to Kansas, Kenseth holds an 8 point lead over Johnson. Kenseth holds the qualifying record at Kansas.
The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway will be televised on ESPN with coverage starting at 1 pm eastern time.