Johnson Wins 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race
Despite four-straight Sprint Cup Championships, a Daytona 500 victory and an All-Star race win, there was still one victory that has eluded Jimmie Johnson his entire career – a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
On Sunday, Johnson scratched off two more milestones in his bid for a fifth-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup title with a win in Sunday’s Food City 500 to score his first victory at the famed half-mile track as well as notching his 50th career Sprint Cup win.
Johnson passed Tony Stewart with seven laps to go and easily cruised to the victory by over ten car-lengths to secure his first victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, one of only six tracks he had yet to win at.
Stewart held on for second, followed by Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth.
Johnson’s victory was his third in the first five races of the 2010 season, moving him to third in the standings just 14 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
“A couple cool stats and an awesome victory today,” said Johnson. “I'm just proud of what we continue to do. I mean, it's one thing to have some success, but to continue to do it year after year, to find tracks that really are our weakest tracks, focus on them, get stronger and better at them, is a cool thing to experience.
“There's a lot of work that goes into it. I wish everybody could see behind the scenes what effort goes into it….trying to find the smallest details to make us better week in and week out, at this track so we could finally win here.
“Every win is extremely special. But when a track kicks your butt for so long and you finally can win at that track, there's just something really unique about that. That's what I experienced today.”
Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton rounded out the top ten finishers.
Johnson gave up second place and an sure chance at a top-five finish by electing to take on four tires during the final pit stop on lap 485, coming off pit road sixth behind Biffle, Kenseth, Edwards and Stewart – all of whom took on only two tires.
Kurt Busch, who had led 10 times for a race-high 278 laps, also took four tires and lined up on in the inside of Johnson for the double-file restart.
With the green flag in the air, Kenseth got off to a bad start, trapping the drivers running behind him as the outside line charged past with Johnson sliding into third behind Stewart and Biffle.
After trying to make a three-wide move around Biffle, Johnson fell in line as Stewart dropped to the low side around Biffle with Johnson following to take second.
With seven laps to go, Johnson moved to the high side of Stewart and made the pass as they came through turn one and quickly pulled away.
For many of the drivers in the top ten, the decision on whether to take on four tire or only two was an agonizing choice, and one that was likely to be second-guessed long after the race was over.
“We didn't have a choice, knowing when the caution came out, knowing to stay or come in. It was just a matter to take two or four,” said Stewart. “If we were really tight, I probably would have requested four. Being loose, I felt like we could afford to make a chassis adjustment and just put right sides on. (Crew Chief) Darian (Grubb) backed me up on that. That made me feel confident we did the right thing.
“We got lucky on the restart. Matt spun the tires, we were able to get second there, get underneath Greg (Biffle), get by. But we weren't able to hold off Jimmie.”
For Busch, the third-place showing was a bitter pill to swallow after dominating the event at a track where he already has five Sprint Cup victories.
After giving up the lead with 17 laps to go to come to pit road for four tires, Busch was one the drivers pinned on the inside line as Kenseth failed to get going on the final restart.
“I’d rather lose to any of the 41 cars out there than the 48 car,” said Busch. “I thought we had them beat. I gave it my heart today, but came up short.
“We definitely had a car to beat today. We just ended up in the wrong lane for that last restart. We would have been better off if we had lost a spot on pit road and started up on the outside. It’s just the luck of the draw. We had it won, but we didn’t drive our car into victory lane. I poured my heart out, trying to beat the 48 and then to lose to them, that’s what is upsetting.”
With 50 victories, Johnson is now tied with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 10th on the all-time win list, and now moves on to next week’s race at Martinsville, where Johnson already has six victories including five of the last seven events.
I feel we're one of the ones to consider(a favorite). But this is racing, and anything can and will happen,” said Johnson. “We're off to a great start. But we've all seen enough teams rise and fall. You never just hand it to anybody.
* Denotes Rookie
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