One week ago in Dover, Jimmie Johnson looked to be well on his way to grabbing his record eighth win at the “Monster Mile”.
Those hopes of victory were dashed when NASCAR black-flagged Johnson for jumping the restart, forcing the No.48 back to a disappointing seventeenth.
Heading into Sunday’s Party In the Poconos 400 at Pocono (P.A.) Raceway, Johnson’s team came to the track ready to redeem themselves for a win they thought was taken from them.
After rain washed out qualifying on Friday, Johnson started on pole per the NASCAR rule book. And that wasn’t the last time Johnson would be at the top of the charts as he posted in the top-two in both practice sessions on Saturday.
When the race finally went green, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Johnson in the early stages as Carl Edwards took the early race lead away.
But just ten laps into the race, Johnson found himself in the top-spot.
That was a position Johnson would make home Sunday afternoon en route to winning the Party At The Poconos 400.
“I really didn’t have anything for Jimmie,” said second-place finisher Greg Biffle after the race. “I just wanted to get to his bumper and rough him up just a little bit.”
After a late-race-slew of caution flags for various incidents on the 2.5-mile triangular Pocono Raceway, Johnson took the lead for good on the final restart of the race with five laps to go.
“Jimmie was in a league of his own,” Biffle continued. “I gave him such a good push on the restart that I couldn’t catch back up with him.”
Other than restarts, Johnson’s biggest challenges for the race came from Ryan Newman and his crews creative pit strategy to keep their driver up front.
“There’s only so many tricks you have. You have to play by the rules,” Johnson said about the restarts late in the going.
“They were figuring out everything that I could do in that zone and fortunately I was able to get the lead and have clean-air out there in the end.”
Newman led the race three times for a total of 19 laps; most of those after Johnson pitted under green flag conditions.
But once the cautions came and strategy flew out the window, it was all Johnson up front.
“This is the best car I’ve had in a long,long,long,long time,” Johnson said in victory lane after leading a race-high 128 of the 160 laps. “What a race car.
“It was awesome today to do what I wanted on the straightaways around other cars.”
Sunday’s win marks the third time Johnson has won at Pocono Raceway, but the first since August,2004 when he won both Sprint Cup races at Pocono in that calendar year.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve won here, so I’m thankful to do that,” said Johnson after picking up his sixty-third career Sprint Cup win.
While it may have looked easy sailing for the five-time champion out front, it wasn’t all that easy at points inside the race car.
At points in the race, Johnson made note of a possible vibration in the car.
“It was a concern,” Johnson said. “I we were spinning the left-rear tire on the wheel itself and it would start vibrating.
“I thought it may have been a loose wheel the way it shook in the corners and not on the straights, but it never got any worse and [the crew] was able to diagnoss what the problem was.”
Johnson now has a whopping 51-point lead over Edwards in the championship standings.
The next race for the Sprint Cup Series is Sunday, June 16 at Michigan (Brooklyn) International Speedway. A track that Johnson has never won at.
Party In The Poconos 400 Unofficial Results
- Jimmie Johnson
- Greg Biffle
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Tony Stewart
- Ryan Newman
- Kyle Busch
- Kurt Busch
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Joey Logano
- Jeff Burton
- Jeff Gordon
- Jamie McMurray
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Clint Bowyer
- Brad Keselowski
- Marcos Ambrose
- Carl Edwards
- Mark Martin
- Travis Kvapil
- Aric Almirola
- Casey Mears
- Martin Truex Jr.
- David Gilliland
- Matt Kenseth
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Bobby Labonte
- David Stremme
- Danica Patrick
- Paul Menard
- Dave Blaney
- David Reutimann
- AJ Allmendinger
- Josh Wise
- Timmy Hill
- Kasey Kahne
- David Ragan
- Landon Cassill
- JJ Yeley
- Michael McDowell
- Scott Riggs
- Joe Nemechek
- Jason Leffler