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It's Jimmie Johnson again, easily winning the Dover 400, after Jeff Gordon has yet more trouble

It's Jimmie Johnson again, easily winning the Dover 400, after Jeff Gordon has yet more trouble

Can't disguise Mr. Five-Time (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   Jimmie the Machine.
   Thinking Mr. Five-Time is geared up to make a run at becoming Mr. Six-Time? Well, maybe so.
   Here with his unconventionally painted Petty Blue car plastered with sponsor balloons and penguins…and carrying a wild rainbow wig for victory lane.
   Everyone else was playing for second here Sunday, while Jimmie Johnson used lightning-fast restarts and clean air to clean house at Dover International Speedway.
   And title contenders Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch all took hard hits in the standings.
   How dominant was Johnson in winning the Dover 400? He led 289 of the 400 laps, including the final 76, taking charge of all the restarts.
   Kevin Harvick, in one of his best runs of the season, outdueled Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second. But Johnson was half a straight ahead when he crossed the finish line.
   Johnson's win continues Team Hendrick's suddenly hot charge, which began three weeks ago with Johnson's Darlington 500 victory, and continued with Johnson's All-Star runaway and then teammate Kasey Kahne's breakthrough win in the Charlotte 600.


   A beautful day at Dover. Especially if you were Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "I had an amazing Chevrolet….Jeff Gordon had the fastest car….but the deal was all on pit road," Johnson said.
   "Last week we didn't fare so well. This time we did better."
   A pit road miscue at Charlotte cost Johnson a shot at the 600.
   Here Sunday the crew was spot-on, and it was teammate Gordon who had pit road misfortune.
   In fact it was pit road that probably cost Gordon, Johnson's hard-luck teammate, the win.
   Gordon did look amazingly strong throughout the race. But loose lugs on a left-rear tire midway through the 3-1/2-hour race forced Gordon to make an unscheduled green flag stop.
   And Gordon, who has had strong cars all spring but incredibly bad luck, just like this, was not happy.
   "We had the car to win the race….we paid the price," Gordon, 13th,  grumbled.
   "We still should have won the race. I'm tired of the same old little things getting us."


   Pit road giveth, and pit road taketh away (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    On the other hand, Harvick was happy. He's had a relatively lackluster season so far, but this time he had a solid shot at the win down the stretch.
   On the final restart with 31 miles to go Johnson was the leader but gave Harvick the inside line. Johnson quickly jumped out to a comfortable lead at the green and was never challenged.
   "We've fixed a lot of things, and we're right on the verge," Harvick said.
   Kenseth led the Jack Roush Fords. Teammate Carl Edwards' blown right front tire early took him behind the wall; third teammate Greg Biffle, though he remains atop the Sprint Cup standings heading this week to repaved Pocono, was never really a factor in the 400.
   "We missed it all day, so it was good we qualified well," Kenseth said. "We could keep up with everyone except Jimmie and Jeff."
   The restarts?
   "You're asking the wrong guy," Kenseth said with a wry grin. "It's not necessarily which lane you're in; it's the leader and when he goes."
   And that most of the time was Johnson, who never missed a beat.

   And this time Jimmie Johnson's pit crew was spot-on (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   The race played out on a beautiful, warm spring afternoon, though in front of a nice yet less-than-capacity crowd.
   The pre-race story focused on Kurt Busch's latest blowup, this time Saturday afternoon after the Nationwide race. NASCAR officials and Busch himself had no comment after their Sunday morning meeting over the issue, in which Busch, aggravated at a journalist's question, threatened to "beat the cr*p" out of him, while Speed TV cameras were rolling on pit road.
   Busch's engine blew late in the 400….timing that ironically revived Gordon's flagging hopes to make a game of it yet with Johnson. Busch was never a factor in the 400.
   And also ironically brother Kyle Busch blew an engine too, midway through the race. Kyle had at least at third-place car when he lost the engine.

   An early crash in the turn two 'canyon' took out Stewart and damaged 13 cars, in the biggest on-track incident since Daytona in February.
   Regan Smith took the blame; but Stewart blamed himself and his team for not qualifying better.
   Stewart started 29th and was trying to work his way up when the incident occurred, while he was trying to pass Landon Cassill on the inside, in what is a blind corner. When the two slowed briefly, Smith plowed into Stewart.
   Smith said "I started the whole thing. I will take full blame for that. Somehow they got checked up in front of me. I just didn't have time to get slowed up with it."
   Stewart, however, said "It wasn't Regan's fault. He was right behind us and didn't have anywhere to go.
    Cassill "was trying to get back down to the bottom (groove)," Stewart said, "and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
   "Just not a real good deal at the beginning of the race like this. It's just a crappy weekend.
    "When you get back there with some of them guys, you've just got to be more patient. But as far back as we started I didn't really have the luxury to be as patient as I would have liked to have been."
   Stewart wasn't the only title contender taking it on the chin.
    Edwards blew a right front tire early and hit the wall.  "Our front right tire went flat, I don't know exactly why," Edwards said.

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Jeff Gordon can't buy a break right now. It's a

Jeff Gordon can't buy a break right now. It's a bit surprising considering how well the other HMS cars are running. Nice article.

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