Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Jimmie Johnson wins second straight, this time at Dover

DOVER, Del. — Jimmie Johnson handled the pothole at Dover the same way he disposed of a rough patch to start the season.

He won.

A week after ending an 11-race Sprint Cup winless streak — a long one by his standards — in the Coca-Cola 600, Johnson had another routine romp Sunday at Dover International Speedway. His sensational run to win the FedEx 400 extended his Dover victory record in NASCAR's top series to nine.

Johnson was the class of the field in a race red-flagged for 22 minutes to repair a pothole in the concrete track.

"Whatever they put in the pothole, it worked awfully well," Johnson said.

His No. 48 Chevrolet was even better. Johnson led 272 of 400 laps, and won consecutive races for the 13th time. The six-time Cup champion swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and won races in 2005, '10, '12 and '13.

Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.

"For sure, when you come to Dover, it's always the 48," Kenseth said. "We've got to figure out how to get ahead of him."

Good luck. Johnson's celebrations at Dover have become a NASCAR norm. He became Dover's career leader in laps led when he hit 2,802, passing Bobby Allison.

"It's amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules, different tires," Johnson said. "This place just fits my style and (crew chief) Chad Knaus' style."

Johnson also revealed he had surgery to repair three bilateral hernias at the end of last season, which cost the No. 48 team testing time.

"We felt like it was time to shut things down and let the team kind of recoup," said Johnson, who added he was "surprised nobody knew about this thing sooner. It wasn't a secret by any stretch of the imagination."

Sunday, the drama came when the race stopped after 160 laps. Ryan Newman's car pulled up chunks of the track that kicked back and damaged Jamie McMurray's car. The red flag came out so crews weren't allowed to work on the cars.

McMurray's plea for an exception to that rule was denied.

"Initially, I thought I'd blown a tire out," said McMurray, who went a lap down and finished 13th. "I heard a huge 'boom.' It actually pushed the car to the right and I got into the fence a little bit. … It killed the front end. Our guys did a really good job recovering here putting all the stuff on and we salvaged what we could."

NASCAR officials and safety crews worked on the holes, applying a quick-drying concrete mix. Cup races were infamously delayed by potholes at Martinsville in 2004 and the 2010 Daytona 500, which McMurray won.

"It started to come back up at the end, but I didn't think it was a major issue," Keselowski said.

Kyle Busch led the first 81 laps before Johnson passed him. Busch's bid for a tripleheader sweep at Dover, after he won Friday's truck race and Saturday's Nationwide race, ended when his No. 18 Toyota hit the outside wall after contact with Bowyer. Busch did not speak to the media.

"It was one of those deals where I thought I was clear, obviously, and wasn't and ruined his day and certainly didn't help mine," Bowyer said.

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