Last week, Jimmie Johnson broke a streak of 13 consecutive races without a win at the Coca-Cola 600. On Sunday, Johnson started a new streak winning his second consecutive race – record ninth at Dover – winning the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at the Monster Mile.
Johnson made the Monster Mile look like a walk in the park, even if things were difficult at times, leading over half of the 400 laps on Sunday. Pole sitter Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Ford placed second, while Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
“We were decent, but couldn’t really go anywhere – ran fifth or sixth for a while,” said Johnson after the victory. “From the second run on, the track came to us, or something happened there. And the car was just incredible the rest of the day. At the end we really honed in on the balance of the race car and what adjustments to put under it. That thing was awesome.”
While it was a beautiful day for racing, it didn’t take long for things to get messy on Sunday.
Winner at Dover on Friday and Saturday Kurt Busch, who started 24th on Sunday, led the way during the early going taking the lead over the first 81 laps of the race. However, 124 laps in a collision with Bowyer sent Busch into the wall ending his day early.
The second collision of the day occurred ten laps later involving A.J. Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Just a few laps later Jamie McMurray’s car was hit by track debris bringing about the second red flag of the day, a 22-minute delay, while a pot hole was repaired on the track. During the mayhem, Kevin Harvick took the lead from Johnson only to see his chances dwindled by tire troubles and Hamlin took a brief lead.
After the race, Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus spoke about the conditions at the Monster Mile, especially after multiple cautions Sunday.
“There’s nothing wrong with the racing surface,” said Knaus. “There’s no bones about what this facility does. It happens. You have to kind of fatigue on your pavement. I think those guys did a fantastic job of fixing the racing surface. It held up great. Everybody was waiting for it to come apart but I think the track service did a great job repairing the damage.”
After the restart, Johnson retook the lead from Hamlin who was overtaken by Kenseth and Gordon. Johnson led trailed by Gordon, Kenseth, Hamlin, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the half-way mark.
Johnson cruised from that point on, giving up the lead briefly to Bowyer during yet another caution while crews cleaned up more track debris.
There was one final caution when a tire came lose with nine laps to go, but Johnson was able to keep the lead through the caution and the restart.
While this is Johnson’s ninth career victory at Dover, it’s the 13th time he’s won two consecutive races after winning last week at Charlotte.
Sunday’s race ran an average speed of 117.724 mph and had eight cautions over 41 laps and 18 lead changes over the course of the race.
Kenseth took the points standing lead after Sunday’s race, jumping ahead of Gordon by two points. Carl Edwards moved up to third while Johnson jumped up two spots from sixth to fourth.