Jimmie Johnson Overcomes Early Trouble To Capture Third Win Of The Season At Kansas Speedwayby Michelle Robbins May 10, 2015 0 comments
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmie Johnson had all but wrecked in Turn 3 five laps into the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 when the El Cajon, Calif. native bounced back and captured his third victory Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.
With Saturday night’s win, Johnson now has three wins (Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway) this season and 73 total in his career. He also surpassed a milestone of 200 top-five finishes and 300 top-10 finishes throughout his career.
“Tonight, I felt like we had a good car,” Johnson said. “As we got to the front and got out of the turbulent air and traffic our car just got faster and faster. I felt like we were a top 2 or 3 car but I didn’t have enough time up there in the top 2 or 3 to know where I stood against the 78 and the 4, but we gambled with our pit call and had just enough time to get to the finish line before the 4 on his new tires could get to us. Just well played.”
Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Kevin Harvick was leading late in the race but opted to pit during a caution with eight laps to go. Harvick’s No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team changed right side tires and sent him back on track in the sixth position where he was able to salvage a solid runner-up finish. Harvick has finished either first or second eight times out of the first 11 races this season.
“Yeah, just really proud of our Jimmy John’s guys they did a great job tonight.,” Harvick said. “We made some huge adjustments on this thing under that last green flag pit stop. And we were able to make the car a lot better. Just in a bad spot leading the race there. I mean the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) those guys didn’t have anything for us on speed. They were just doing what they had to do on track position wise. And then move all over the racetrack to try to get the air off your car. The good news is we have a lot of speed in our car. We took an ill handling racecar and made it into a good car. I’m just really proud of all my guys.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon both decided not to pit for tires or fuel during the last caution and finished third and fourth, respectively. Coors Light Pole Award winner, Joey Logano overcame two pit road penalties earlier in the race to rally his No. 22 AAA Insureance team back to a fifth-place finish. After a spin on Lap 130, Matt Kenseth clawed his way back to finish sixth while Brad Keselowski used pit strategy to finish seventh.
“We had some good fortune,” Kenseth said. “Our Dollar General Camry tonight was fairly dependent, other times we were kind of off and of course me spinning out didn’t help and got us behind, but we were able to get some good restarts there at the end and get some track position and get a decent finish from it.”
Martin Truex, Jr. led the most laps (95) but finished ninth after being trapped behind Kurt Busch who did not get going and lost several positions on the final restart. Busch ultimately finished eighth while the No. 31 of Ryan Newman rounded out the top-10.
“Well, if we got two tires we would have come out sixth,” Truex Jr. said. “That would have been a pretty good spot to be in. But you never know how these things are going to play out. I hate fuel mileage racing because of that. I have never ever once in my career come out on the right side of one of these deals with fuel mileage. Just proud of my team and proud of my guys for bringing a fast racecar.”
The race saw nine cautions and a red flag that lasted two hours and 15 minutes on Lap 95 due to rain. Track crew and NASCAR’s Air Titans made quick work of getting the track dried to go back green on Lap 108.
Once the race went back to green Truex established his lead and rookie Erik Jones impressed with a top-10 run during his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup start. Despite running in the top-10 most the night Jones was relegated to a 40th-place after he got loose off of Turn 4 and slammed into the outside wall.
“I learned a lot about racing up front and racing with these guys,” Jones said. “It’s definitely nice to be as fast as we were and we had a great M&M’s Camry, but I just got loose off (turn) four and lost it. All my fault, guess I have to go back and figure it out. You know, we had a good night before that. Something to take from it. I’m ready to do another one — I hope I get another shot.”
With 60 laps remaining Denny Hamlin succumbed to earlier damage to his right front tire hitting the wall with tremendous force. Hamlin took his No. 11 to the garage for repair and finished 41st.
“We got in an incident with the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and the 9 (Sam Hornish Jr.) – we were in the middle of them and the 88 came up and squeezed me into the 9,” Hamlin said. “We cut a tire and then came in and changed those, but we didn’t change lefts. I told Dave (Rogers, crew chief) that I thought the right sides were the only ones hurt. He didn’t see the left side damage and we had a tire run and blew a left rear. Then we wrecked, but we wrecked off of turn four and the caution wasn’t thrown until I nearly stopped in turn one.”
The final caution came out when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s No. 17 made contact with the outside wall on the backstretch due to a problem with the right front tire. Jamie McMurray considers Kansas Speedway a home track, and he ran fast most of the night and finished 13th. Other hometown heroes include Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer who finished 20th and 21st, respectively.
“We had a really long night,” McMurray said. “I felt like we had about a 20th place car, so to finish 13th I am somewhat happy with that. We really struggled all weekend. This was a great track for me last year. We ran well in both the spring and fall races, but we struggled all weekend. We just never really had the car where we needed it to be.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will resume next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway when the drivers fight for a million dollars and bragging rights for the Sprint All-Star Race. On Friday, May 15, coverage for the Sprint Showdown will begin at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. The Sprint All-Star will broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 16.
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