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Jimmie Johnson defeats Harvick in Fontana

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Sunday, February 21, 2010

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Jimmie Johnson
Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

In front of a sparse California crowd, Californians Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick battled all race long with Johnson prevailing by about 1 second over Harvick to win the Auto Club 500 in Fontana, California in front of California fans.  Harvick held off his RCR teammate Jeff Burton and Mark Martin made it a 1-2-3-4 Chevy sweep.  It was Johnson's 5th win at Auto Club Speedway and his 48th career Sprint Cup win.

After winning his unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship last season, Johnson started this season by finishing 35th at the Daytona 500.

Consider the drive for five (straight titles) under way for Johnson.

After gaining the lead in the Auto Club 500 during a fortunate exchange on pit road, the four-time defending series champion held off Kevin Harvick during a 20 lap green-flag run to the finish. Harvick had narrowed a one-second lead to 0.311 seconds on Lap 246 of 250 before a brush with the wall slowed his progress.

Jeff Burton ran third, followed by Mark Martin and Joey Logano. Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle completed the top 10.

With the win, Johnson tied Herb Thomas for 12th on the career victory list and showed the rest of the field that he’s back on course after a 35th-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500.

The key sequence came on Lap 223, when Brad Keselowski spun his Dodge off Turn 4 after contact with David Reutimann’s Toyota and brought out the sixth and final caution of the race. Johnson was on pit road when NASCAR called the caution but beat the pace car to the scoring line at the exit.

When the rest of the lead-lap cars pitted under the yellow, Johnson inherited the lead and held it for a restart on Lap 231.

“They’re really good, but they’re also really, really lucky,” Harvick said. “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass—there’s no getting around that.”

Johnson acknowledged his good fortune after climbing from his car in victory lane.

“Today, fortune came our way,” Johnson said. “We hit pit road, and the caution came out and gave us track position. We lost the handle in the second half of the race. We were making gains coming back, but a lot of other guys were ahead of us, and I knew it would be tough to pass them.

“I’m not going to lie — the fact that we were on pit road gave us track position, and I drove my butt off. We finally got the car turning — it was just a little too loose. The 29 (Harvick) was coming, but then he hit the wall and let us get it.

“Yes, we were lucky today, but you don’t get lucky and win four championships and 48 races.”

Just as intense as Harvick’s pursuit of Johnson was Burton’s battle with Harvick, his Richard Childress Racing teammate and the new Cup points leader through two races.

“I kept running the bottom, because if (Harvick) slipped, I could get the spot,” Burton said. “But me running the bottom, him running the top — we weren’t slowing each other up. Just the way he was running his fastest line, I was running my fastest line.

“I think when we were doing that, we were running (Johnson) down. And then we got a little bit looser. Kevin looked like he got better. When he did, I thought he was going to win the race.”

The brush with the wall, however, ended his prospects for victory. Harvick’s Chevy slid into the barrier after Johnson moved up the track to block the line he was running.

“I caught the wall there just enough to knock the right front fender in,” Harvick said. “You know, if he doesn’t move up, he’s going to get passed pretty easily. He moved up and did what he was supposed to do to take that line away. He was able to drive off. So he did exactly what he had to do.”

Notes: Engine troubles sidelined Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Marcos Ambrose. … Despite the good fortune, Johnson’s win was hardly fluke. He led a race-high 101 laps. … Polesitter and Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray finished 17th.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 7 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 195/10 250 Running
2 6 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 175/5 250 Running
3 14 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 170/5 250 Running
4 10 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 165/5 250 Running
5 19 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 155/0 250 Running
6 12 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 155/5 250 Running
7 20 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal 146/0 250 Running
8 3 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 147/5 250 Running
9 16 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 138/0 250 Running
10 35 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 134/0 250 Running
11 13 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 135/5 250 Running
12 23 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 132/5 250 Running
13 31 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac "You don't know quack" 124/0 250 Running
14 9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 126/5 250 Running
15 11 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 118/0 250 Running
16 8 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Auto Club 120/5 250 Running
17 1 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 112/0 250 Running
18 36 98 Paul Menard Ford Energizer / Menards 109/0 250 Running
19 22 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 106/0 250 Running
20 28 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 108/5 250 Running
21 21 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge AAA Insurance 100/0 250 Running
22 17 36 Mike Bliss Chevrolet Wave Energy Drink 97/0 250 Running
23 15 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 94/0 250 Running
24 37 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Stanley 91/0 250 Running
25 29 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Best Buy 88/0 250 Running
26 41 38 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 85/0 250 Running
27 33 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 82/0 250 Running
28 43 13 Max Papis Toyota GEICO 79/0 250 Running
29 25 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 81/5 248 Running
30 39 34 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 73/0 248 Running
32 27 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy Juice / National Guard 67/0 238 Running
33 40 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Warner Music Nashville / Whitney Duncan 64/0 230 In Pit
34 4 9 Kasey Kahne Ford Budweiser / Team USA 61/0 221 Running
35 26 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Armor All 58/0 170 In Pit
36 18 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation 55/0 148 Out of Race
37 2 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 57/5 140 Out of Race
38 42 26 Boris Said Ford Sacred Power / Southern Pride Trucking 49/0 67 In Pit
39 34 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 46/0 64 Out of Race
40 32 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota FrontRowJoe.com 43/0 48 In Pit
41 5 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 45/5 43 Out of Race
42 30 55 Michael McDowell Toyota Prism Motorsports 37/0 40 Out of Race
43 24 09 Aric Almirola Chevrolet Phoenix Racing 34/0 34 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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