Jimmie Johnson domianted the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sunday, leading 270 laps of the 400-lap race en route to his second-straight win of 2014 and joining Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick as the only two-time winners, so far, this season. The win was the ninth of Johnson’s career at Dover.
“It was an awesome race car,” Johnson said. “The first run, I wasn’t sure we were really going to have the normal Dover magic here. Once the track rubbered in, our car came to life, and it was so good. It’s amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules, different tires. This place just fits my style and (crew chief) Chad Knaus’ style.”
Brad Keselowski finished second after getting by Matt Kenseth on the final restart with four laps remaining. Kenseth finished third. Clint Bowyer was fourth, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five after overcoming a speeding penalty during a caution on lap 66.
“The car was really strong the second half of the race,” Keselowski said. “My guys made great adjustments on it and we drove up to second there. We were pretty equal to Jimmie, there, but never got a crack at him. I would have like a shot. It was a decent day for us, finishing second, and that is something to be proud up, but we want one spot more.”
Kyle Busch led the first 81 laps of the race before giving up the lead to Johnson on lap 81. On lap 125, Busch got caught up in a three-way battle for third position with Bowyer and Jeff Gordon. Busch made contact with Bowyer and sustained enough damage to retire from the reace.
The only drivers other than Johnson to lead a significant number of laps through the remainder of the race were Kevin Harvick and Kenseth. Harvick took the lead from Johnson on a restart following a lap 135 caution and led 24 laps before suffering a tire issue on the next restart.
Kenseth took the lead after Harvick’s tire problem and led 17 laps before Johnson retook the lead on lap 178. The only laps not led by Johnson for the remainder of the race were a handful of laps led by Bowyer when Bowyer opted to stay out during a yellow flag with 40 laps to go to gain track position. But as soon as the race went back to green, Johnson was back up front.
“The first run or two, I didn’t think we were in a dominant position, but towards the end of the first run, things started coming around and I felt like we were in great shape. Even with some varying track strategies and I lost track position, we were still able to smoke our way through traffic and get to the front and control things.”
The yellow flag waved one more time with eight laps to go. In all, there were eight cautions, with two of those cautions leading to red flags. The first red flag came on lap 135 for track clean-up after an incident involving Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Landon Cassill and Ryan Truex.
“Inside of the car, I didn’t really know what happened,” Biffle said. “I just knew the 47 (A.J. Allmendinger) got into us pretty hard and turned us into the fence. After watching the replay, I see what happened. They were racing hard back there and he stuck it into a hole that maybe there wasn’t room for.”
The second red flag came out with the Monster Mile (Dover’s nickname) took a bite out of Jamie McMurray’s car, literally, on lap 158. Ryan Newman’s car kicked up a piece of concrete from the track surface, and that chunk of concrete flew into the front of McMurray’s car, damaging the splitter. The race was red-flagged while track officials filled the pothole left by the chunk of concrete.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Paul Menard.