Domination, thy name is Jimmie Johnson. At least that was the case at Kansas Speedway for the El Cajon, California native as he led 197 of the 272 laps in the Hollywood Casino 400 en route to his second victory of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, holding off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne in the final laps and breaking a 21-race winless drought to do so.
“This sport is so tough, look at all the second places we have this year. We have been close, but just have not got the job done.” Johnson reflected post-race. “We were glad to get the win done today.”
Johnson started 19th, but used an early caution to take a two-tire pit stop to get out front and was never really seriously contended with the rest of the race, even holding what, at one point, was a 13-second lead in the race. In the closing stages, Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon inadvertantly added some drama to the race when his Hendrick powerplant let go in a puff of smoke with three laps remaining to bring out a caution, dealing a huge blow to Gordon’s hopes and aspirations of joining Johnson as a five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.
This gave Kasey Kahne, who had fresher tires than Johnson, a chance to compete with the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion, which was something no one could really do at all on the day. The Enumclaw, Washington native gave the No. 48 car all he could handle, but it would not be enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as Johnson won the race to the checkered flag, beating Kahne by 0.548 seconds.
Kahne would have to settle for second on the afternoon.
“We had good strategy there. [Crew chief] Kenny Francis did a nice job.” Kahne reflected post-race. “We had a pretty fast Red Bull Toyota. Jimmie [Johnson] just beat me on the restart. I spun the tires some — he jumped on a little prior to where I thought he would, so he kind of beat me. Brad [Keselowski] gave me a good push. I had a good run and then he [Johnson] just kind of used the whole track up in [Turn] 3 and I was in bad air and had no shot. The guys did a good job. It was a good day for us and we’ll just keep working.”
Brad Keselowski, who finished third, even concurred that this day belonged to Johnson. “Jimmie was the car to beat all day,” Keselowski said.
Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who rallied from being a lap down at one point, rounded out the top-5 and managed to take a slim one point lead in the Chase standings over Kevin Harvick, who finished sixth on the afternoon. “There’s a lot that can happen in the next six races,” Edwards said. “There are so many moments that will still define this championship.”
Rounding out the top-10 were local favorite Clint Bowyer, pole-sitter Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, and Mark Martin.
Tony Stewart, who ran second for much of the race to Johnson, had an unfortunate mishap on his final stop where he accidentally made contact with the throttle while trying to slide into his pit stall and was mired back in 15th at the end of the race. This, coupled with his 28th-place finish at Dover, now knocks the early Chase leader back to seventh in the standings.
Johnson’s win moved him up to third-place in the points. just four points out of the lead. Keselowski jumped up two positions to fourth in the standings, while Kenseth is now fifth in the standings. Kurt Busch dropped a couple of spots to sixth and Kyle Busch is currently eighth in points. Only 20 points now separate the top eight drivers.
Johnson now is tied for ninth-place in career Sprint Cup victories with Rusty Wallace after scoring his 55th career Sprint Cup triumph. The average speed of the race was 137.181 mph and the race was slowed by 6 cautions for 25 laps. The race took 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 27 seconds to complete with 19 lead changes among nine drivers with an attendance listed at 82,000 paying fans.
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