Jimmie Johnson turns dominating performance into Daytona win

Jimmie Johnson dominated the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Saturday night, leading 93 of the 161 laps that made up the full race distance, including a green-white-checker attempt that added a lap to the scheduled 160-lap distance.

“That (dominate) is tough to do at a plate track, especially with how tight the rules are,” Johnson said. “I think I showed strength early and a lot of the guys knew that and were willing to work with me and kind of help me through situations, which is great. I don’t know if I really made a bad move tonight. I’m really proud of that.”

With the win, Johnson swept 2013 Sprint Cup points races at Daytona, as he also won the Daytona 500 in February. It marked the first time since 1982 that a driver had swept at Daytona. Bobby Allison was the victor in both races that year.

“Gosh, I remember being in Sourthern California, watching Bobby Allison,” Johnson said. “I remember where I was the day Davey (Allison) passed away. That is how much the Allison family meant to me. I always though it was so great to watch Bobby and Davey race. To tie anything that Bobby has done is pretty special.”

The final laps of the race were carnage-filled, with two wrecks on the final lap, alone. Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose and otherswrecked in turn two on the final lap. In turn four, Danica Patrick, Jeff Burton, J.J. Yeley, and Ryan Newman were among the drivers who got together. Newman, though, was able to make it back to the line to finish 10th.

“Just glad we were ahead of the carnage,” Tony Stewart, who finished second, said.

The race was even red-flagged in the closing laps when Denny Hamlin’s car made a sharp turn to the right with 11 laps to go, collecting A.J. Allmendinger, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Dave Blaney, among others.

After the brief rad flag, Johnson restarted the race in the lead with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne right behind him. The Hendrick duo pulled out in front of the race field when the race went back to green, but soon after, Johnson moved up the track to block Marcos Ambrose. Ambrose then moved to the inside in an attempt to take the lead, but Johnson moved down the track. As Johnson moved down, Ambrose was forced downward to avoid contact. That forced Kahne even farther down the track, causing him to lose control and hit the inside retaining wall. It was Kahne’s wreck that sent the race into the green-white-checker overtime.

Kyle Busch looked to have the car to beat early on in the race after he started on the pole and led 29 laps before losing the lead to Johnson on lap 31. Busch’s car later sustained damage from a wreck that involved Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin and Juan Montoya just before lap 100.

Johnson led much of the remainder of the race after taking over for Busch up front on lap 31. He did lose several spots because of timing around lap 70, though. Drivers began cycling through pit stops on lap 68, but before the cycle was completed, a tire issue for Joey Logano brought out the caution on lap 70. Having not pitted, Johnson, along with several others, headed down pit road under the yellow. Those who pitted under green before the caution, remained on the track and restarted up front.

Hamlin restarted with the lead with Jamie McMurray alongside in second. McMurray took the top spot on lap 93. By that time Johnson had made his way back toward the front and followed McMurray by Hamlin to take second. By lap 100, Johnson was back up front.

Kevin Harvick finished third, Clint Bowyer was fourth, and Michael Waltrip rounded out the top-five in a rare appearance behind the wheel. Kurt Busch was sixth, McMurray seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr. eighth, and Casey Mears finished ninth, the only Ford driver to finish in the top-10.

– photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR

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Tags: Daytona International Speedway Jimmie Johnson NASCAR

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