Jimmie Johnson Wins Second Career Race
Fighting off searing heat and surging challengers in Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson piloted his No. 48 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet to his second victory at Auto Club Speedway, capturing the NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Sharp AQUOS 500 Sunday night at the two-mile superspeedway.
Johnson's 28th career NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Series victory doubled as his series-best fifth victory of 2007. It also ended a four-month victory lane drought for the No. 48 car and the defending NEXTEL CUP Series champion as Johnson held off Edwards' No. 99 Office Depot Ford and the relentless Busch (No. 5 Cheez-it/CARQUEST Chevrolet).
"We've been close. We've been running good. I think of
"The competition's really, really tight out there. I knew it was going to come and I was concerned we had peaked too quick and we wouldn't be too good in the chase, but the guys are running well," said Johnson's boss, Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick.
The opposite was in effect Sunday. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus bided their time early, watching Busch seize control of the race with a fast car that he and his crew had dialed into the demanding track conditions from the outset. Busch led for 97 of the 250 laps, owning the lead seven times as the race set track marks for most leaders (16) and tied the track record for most lead changes (30).
"We had a really strong car there at the beginning of the race. We kept up with our adjustments all day and the guys had awesome pit stops," Busch said. "It was just a tough day for us there at the end, not being able to run Jimmie down, but all in all, it was a good day."
It was a tough day on the caution front. The 11 cautions - one of which featured a five-car accident that sent NASCAR veteran Ricky Rudd to a nearby hospital -- tied the track record set in 2004 and 2005. But through it all, Johnson and Knaus made the necessary adjustments to the No. 48, moving from a high groove to a lower one as the track cooled off. That allowed him to not only reel in Busch, but hold off a surging Edwards, who made up time over the last 15 laps and appeared as if he'd reel in Johnson.
looked to me like he was searching; he was a little slow. I thought he was going to be a sitting duck," Edwards said. "I wish we could have caught Jimmie. He was fading for a while. I thought we were going to catch him, and then we just kind of all evened out."
Jeff Burton (No. 31 RCR Chevrolet Chevrolet) came off Saturday night's Busch Series victory in the Camping World 300 Presented by RVs.com with a strong fourth-place finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was on the wrong end of the bubble for the 12th and final spot in the Chase for the Cup, ran strong throughout, but finished fifth.