Jimmie Johnson celebrates in victroy lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the fourth time. [Russ lake Photos]
Johnson Adds Name To 4-Time Indy Winners List
by Dan Margetta
Speedway, Ind. July 29 - Jimmie Johnson joined an elite crowd Sunday afternoon, becoming a four-time winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after capturing the victory in the Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard.
"Wow that victory lap going around the track was something special, " Johnson stated from victory lane as the crowd acknowledged his impressive fourth Brickyard win, "To come here and win is such a huge honor and then to win four four wins.., I'm at a loss for words."
With the victory, Johnson joins Jeff Gordon and four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears as four-time winners of a major oval event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It's wild, "Johnson reflected on the accomplishment, "I just hoped to come here and race and I can remember watching the (Indianapolis) '500' on the couch with my grandfather. Then he came to Indy and he was actually at the track and it's nice now to create my own memories here for my family."
Johnson, who led 99 laps, more than any other driver, sealed his victory by scooting ahead on a lap 141 restart while Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch raced each other side by side for second. By the time Busch secured the second spot with an inside pass entering turn three, Johnson's lead grew to over a second and he gradually extended the gap over the final laps to cross under the checkered flag for his fourth Indianapolis victory 4.758 seconds ahead of Busch.
"I don't know how you can go around this place so fast, "Busch said following his runner-up finish, "If it wasn't for the 48 (Johnson), we were in our own zip code compared to the rest of the field, but Jimmy was in his own country."
"It was a pretty good day for us, but we were just super loose all day long, "Biffle explained, describing his third place finish, "It made it difficult and after about four or five laps my car just started to get real loose." "We did two tires there at the end and I thought a lot of people would do two tires, and it turned out most everybody did four (tires). That hurt us a little bit but still, we ended up third."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced among the top ten competitors all race long and made a late charge to finish in fourth place, which was enough to vault him into the lead in the point standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the first time he has led the standings since 2004.
"We just had some good fortunes to start on the inside for the restarts, "Earnhardt said afterward, "We had a fourth to eighth place car and just seemed to get some good fortune on how those restarts lined up for us at the end. The car was fast and I was trying to pass Biffle but couldn't get any closer than I was."
Jeff Gordon had one of the few cars that could keep Johnson honest and he managed to lead a lap but poor positioning on the racetrack forced him to settle for a fifth place finish.
"We had a car that could compete for the win and maybe the only car that could compete with the 48 (Johnson)," Gordon stated, "We had as good a race car if not better than them but we couldn't get the track position and we started in the outside lane on both of those last two restarts which didn't do us any favors. It was a solid day for us but I would have liked to be up there challenging for the win."
Denny Hamlin led the race two times for a total of 27 laps and crossed the finish line in sixth place, ahead of Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. in seventh and eighth respectively.
"The Hendrick cars were the dominant cars and no one was going to run with them, especially the 48 (Johnson)," Hamlin stated, "The 24 (Gordon) found something there at the very end that was beneficial. We had a fourth to sixth place car and that's kind of where we ended up. Once I got back there, I was able to maintain and make up a little ground, but I wasn't going to go any further forward than where I was."
"Every single restart, but the last one I was on the outside," Truex said, "It's just so tough on the outside so the last one I got on the bottom and gained some spots. Overall it was a good day and the guys did an awesome job."
Brad Keselowski and his team implemented an off-sequence pit strategy and nearly derailed Johnson's victory run but some untimely late cautions coupled with a run-in with Regan Smith on a final restart left him with a ninth place finish.
"We had an excellent pit strategy and the team should be very proud of that, I just made too many mistakes, " Keselowski explained, "It's hard to be mad with a top ten, but I want to win these races. We had a strong shot at getting a top two or three and didn't, I don't have much more to add to that."
Tony Stewart had a mostly quiet day, remaining on the lead lap until advancing forward in the closing laps to finish in the tenth position.
"We just didn't start the weekend off good enough," Stewart said, "It was a lot better today but this is where we should have unloaded it instead of trying to be good for the race. I was proud of the gains made as it was a very inconsistent car yesterday and it was a very consistent car today."
The Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard was completed in two hours fifty four minutes and nineteen seconds at an average speed of 137.680 mph before an estimated crowd of 125,000. The race was slowed under the caution flag five times for a total of 25 laps, the most serious occurring on lap 134 for an incident involving Joey Logano and Bobby Labonte that also swept up point leader Matt Kenseth.