Jimmie Johnson has ended a 10 race winless streak. Johnson went back to victory lane in dominating fashion on Sunday afternoon at the Dover International Speedway.
Johnson won the AAA 400 at Dover, leading an astonishing 243 of the 400 laps. He had to hold off his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for the majority of the race. Earnhardt Jr. was the pole sitter and was also the lone driver that could keep up with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate in the late going.
The dominating effort by Johnson and his No. 48 Chevrolet team proved that he hasn’t forgotten how to win. In fact, it was the eighth win for Johnson at Dover, breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for the most at the ‘Monster Mile.’ He now has 65 career wins and is just 11 wins behind Dale Earnhardt Sr. for seventh on the all-time list.
Though it hasn’t been his best season, Johnson has come on strong at the right time and is on pace to contend for his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Evidently, Johnson’s title chase will continue for the next seven races as he must continue to perform at this level if he wants to beat Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth had a strong run early on, leading 36 laps, but his car fell off in the late going. He ended up losing a spot to Kyle Busch towards the end of the race which could be huge if Busch can win a race or two during the final stretch of the NASCAR season.
The AAA 400 at Dover didn’t have a single accident. However, there were four cautions which provided teams huge breaks in strategy. Teams were searching for ways to save fuel towards the end of the day. With about 90 laps to go, most cars began to pit, but the pit window is approximately 85 laps. Most teams (with the exception of Clint Bowyer) probably wouldn’t have been able to make it to the end of the race without pitting. It could have caused a giant shuffle in the finishing order, but with a late race caution due to debris, the remaining cars on the lead lap were able to pit.
Joey Logano came on strong late in the going, passing Jeff Gordon on the final restart after he spun the tires. Logano was able to finish third, putting Gordon back in fourth in a race where he and his team fought back with a rather strong car. Ryan Newman also had a decent day at Dover but finished eighth after fighting some handling issues after the halfway mark.
Kasey Kahne had a horrific day, barely hanging onto a top-15 spot throughout the day. Kahne took the wave around on the final restart but went down a cylinder, finishing 13th one lap down. Kurt Busch had probably the worst day of all the drivers in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup while racing at Dover. Busch was struggling early in the going, dropping outside of the top-20 by the first caution. Then, his pit crew, which has several new members this weekend, messed up on a pit stop, causing Busch to have a loose wheel. That mistake basically messed up his entire race, causing him to finish 21st as he never rebounded.
Carl Edwards was having a decent top-10 day, but he ended up finishing 35th after blowing an engine with just 15 laps to go. Brad Keselowski also had engine problems throughout the day, but he was able to come back out onto the track, finishing 45 laps down.
Kenseth now leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field by eight points over Johnson, 12 over Ky. Busch, 39 over Kevin Harvick and Gordon and 41 points over Greg Biffle.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.