Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Jimmie Johnson takes Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600

CONCORD, N.C. — About the only one not worried about Jimmie Johnson's victory drought this season was the Sprint Cup defending champion. After his dominating show this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson gave his competitors plenty to worry about.

Johnson reached Victory Lane for the first time this season at the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at a track many have called "Jimmie's House."

"It's great to win, but believe me, and I promise you, all the hype and all the concern and worry, that was elsewhere. That wasn't in my head," Johnson told FOX in Victory Lane.

Now, Johnson can think about his record-breaking seventh Cup win at Charlotte, his 13th straight NASCAR season with a victory or his fourth victory in the series' longest race, behind only Darrell Waltrip's five.

And maybe throw a scare into opponents that Johnson's run at top isn't over yet.

"They know we are awake," Johnson said. "Hopefully, the (No.) 48 is heading that way and we can give other people something to think about."

Johnson swept past Matt Kenseth nine laps from the end and was never pressured after that. Johnson earned the pole Thursday, was strong at practice Saturday and led 165 of 400 laps.

Kevin Harvick, who led 100 laps, was second. Kenseth was third, then came Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray.

Harvick won two of the previous three 600s. He fell back in the latter stages as he dealt with car problems and could not get back to the front.

"We needed a 700-mile race to get back to where we needed to be," Harvick said

Brad Keselowski held the lead and appeared to have out-pitted Johnson's No. 48 group with a final stop 55 laps from the end. But a vibration in the Penske machine sent Keselowski back to the pits and a lap down.

Jeff Gordon, who finished seventh, came into the race with questions over whether he would start after back spasms forced him to pull out of practice Saturday morning. But he drove the distance, extending his streak of consecutive races at the start of his career to a record 737. Ricky Rudd owns the overall streak for consecutive starts in NASCAR's top series at 788.

Danica Patrick had hopes of a strong showing after qualifying fourth, her best starting spot of the season. But like Busch, she too, was out early with a blown engine 119 laps from the end. She was 39th, her poorest finish in three 600s.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came into this one with seven top 10s in 11 races and the hope he could finally win a points race at his beloved home track. He led 13 laps late in the race before he had engine problems as well and faded from contention. He ended up 19th.

Busch's double bid up in smoke

Kurt Busch's moonlighting gig at Indy was a smashing success. His day job in NASCAR was a bust courtesy of a blown engine, sending his bid to complete "the double" up in smoke.

Busch was game to run all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. His desire willing but his car parts weak, Busch's run at racing history ended late Sunday night not because of a wreck or weather, but a faulty engine that left his No. 41 Chevrolet a smoky, steaming mess.

Months spent training like a cadet and crisscrossing the country for the doubleheader ended in an empty garage at Charlotte. His race came to a halt about six hours after Busch starred in Indianapolis, driving his backup car to a sensational sixth-place finish.

"I can't let what happened here dampen the mood on what happened up in Indianapolis," he said.

Busch completed about 907 miles in his quest to join Tony Stewart, his NASCAR team's co-owner, as the only other driver to complete the back-to-back races. Busch became the fourth driver to try "the double" and the first since Robby Gordon in 2004.

Only Stewart in 2001 successfully completed both races.

Busch qualified 28th for the Coca-Cola 600 but had to start the 400-lap race at the rear of the field because he didn't make it to the track in time for the driver's meeting.

 
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Published: 01/17/18