2009-06-04 / Sports

Thrilling Win For Johnson At Dover

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

DOVER, Del. - Jimmy Johnson's Sunday win in the Autism 400 at Dover was nothing less than incredible.

Johnson, who led 298 laps of the 400-lap race, took on four tires with 30 laps to go. Many other teams only got two. The two extra tires cost Johnson 11 positions. He went from first to 11th.

It was a lot of ground to make up and a lot of cars to pass. But Johnson put his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet in overdrive and caught the leader Tony Stewart six laps from the finish.

Johnson and Stewart raced side-by-side for the next three times around the one-mile oval, and treated the fans to some exciting racing. But near the end, Johnson's four new tires made the difference. He was able to pass Stewart, who had only two new tires, three laps later.

"I really had to suck it up and get going there at the end," said Johnson. "But the only reason I could do it was because we had an awesome race car today. We've had a lot of fast cars, but this was a special one.

"At the end I just had to go. I got to running around at the top of the track with Tony and had a heck of a time."

Stewart's runner-up finish allowed him to take over as the new Sprint Cup points leader.

"The fastest car won the race today for sure," said Stewart. "I'm just excited for our guys that we're able to run as good as we do. We really didn't have a second place car, but my guys on the pit crew did an awesome job there at the end and got me some track position."

Top-10 finishers: 1. Johnson, 2. Stewart, 3. Greg Biffle, 4. Matt Kenseth, 5. Kurt Busch, 6. Kasey Kahne, 7. Carl Edwards, 8. Ryan Newman, 9. Casey Mears, 10. Mark Martin.

Polesitter David Reutimann finished 18th.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 13 of 26: 1. Stewart-1853, 2. J. Gordon-1807, 3. Johnson-1789, 4. Kurt Busch-1762, 5. Newman- 1680, 6. Kyle Busch-1634, 7. Hamlin 1630, 8. Kenseth-1625, 9. Biffle- 1618, 10. Burton-1587, 11. Edwards 1582, 12. Martin-1567

Keselowski gets Dover Nationwide win

Brad Keselowski raced to his first Nationwide Series victory of the season at Dover on Saturday. Top-10 leaders after 12 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-1836, 2. Edwards- 1796, 3. Leffler-1683, 4. Logano- 1670, 5. Keselowski-1663, 6. Keller-1434, 7. Gaughan-1364, 8. Ragan-1358, 9. Bliss-1355, 10. Allgaier 1344

Scott is Dover truck winner

Brian Scott became the sixth different driver in seven races to win a Craftsman Truck Series race, as he took Saturday's AAA Insurance 200 at Dover. Top-10 leaders: 1. Hornaday-1056, 2. Skinner-1029, 3. Crafton-1027, 4. Kyle Busch-1000, 5. Scott-949, 6. Bodine-946, 7. Cook-920, 8. Mc- Cumbee-916, 9. Starr-903, 10. Benson-887

Junior has new crew chief

Rick Hendrick has replaced Tony Eury Jr., chew chief and cousin of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Eury was reassigned to Hendrick Motorsports' research and development group. Lance McGrew, who has worked with several NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series drivers over the years, was named as Earnhardt's interim crew chief starting with the Cup race at Pocono next weekend.

Brian Whitesell, manager of Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet team, called the race this past weekend at Dover. Earnahrdt Jr. managed a respectable 12thplace finish.

Pressure on Hendrick to make the change had been building in recent weeks, but he didn't act until after Earnhardt finished 40th in the 43-car field Monday in the Coca-Cola 600.

"The frustration after Charlotte just reached a point with all of us that we said, let's try something different," Hendrick said in a teleconference.

"This year, our goal is to make the Chase and we think we can do it. Some guys are going to have to have some bad luck, and we're going to have to run a ton better."

Hendrick said Eury has "tremendous talent" and that "we want him to be part of our organization for a long time."

But Earnhardt's struggle created "probably the most pressure that I've felt in racing since I don't know when," Hendrick said. "Hopefully we're going to ease some of that. We just need a fresh start."

Junior met with reporters at Dover and said the pain of his split with cousin Tony Eury Jr. "may linger for a long time."

"When you're at Hendrick Motorsports you're in the best equipment, and you should win races," said Junior. "And if you don't, that makes for a hard argument that you had any business being there in the first place.

"We've got to work hard the next six months to give ourselves that argument. "And I really think we can do it."

"Everyone on that team knows we've got the microscope on us. That's sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. "If you don't run top-five or top-10 every week, you're not that good. "Most everyone else in the field doesn't get that kind of scrutiny, doesn't get ridden so hard.

"But we know those are the stakes, and that when we show up at the race track we have to live up to those expectations."

Meanwhile the issue over Jeremy Mayfield's drug suspension by NASCAR grew even more complex.

Mayfield and his attorney went to court Friday in attempt to get a restraining order against NASCAR. The judge denied Mayfield's request because Mayfield and his team did not show up for the Dover race.

Mayfield said he had been taking two medications; one was Claritin-D and the other was a prescription drug for anxiety and attention deficit disorder.

NASCAR said he had tested positive for a third drug, which they labeled extremely dangerous. Mayfield said he had not been told about the third drug, which could have been amphetamines.

In the suit, Mayfield alleged that NASCAR did not follow proper testing procedures and failed to give him a chance to prove his innocence. He even said one of the samples had been tampered with before it was tested.

Another hearing has been set for next Wednesday.

Weekend racing: All three of NASCAR's major series' will be at different tracks. The Craftsman Trucks are at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, while the Nationwide Series will be at Nashville Superspeedway. The Sprint Cup teams travel to Pocono, Pa.

Fri., June 5, Craftsman Trucks Winstar World Casino 300, starting time: 8:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed.

Sat., June 6, Nationwide Series Federated Auto Parts 300, starting time: 7 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sun., June 7, Sprint Cup Pocono 500, starting time: 12:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: TNT.

Racing trivia question: How many children does Jeff Gordon have?

Last week's question: Where is Tony Stewart's home town? Answer. Rushville, Ind.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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