Jimmie Johnson claims fourth victory in NASCAR's Brickyard 400
|By Diego Mejia||Sunday, July 29th 2012, 22:16 GMT|
Jimmie Johnson dominated on the way to his fourth Brickyard 400 win and his third NASCAR Sprint Cup points-paying victory of the season.
The four-time Cup champion claimed the lead following the first round of pitstops, overtaking polesitter Denny Hamlin as they were leaving pit road. Once ahead, only pitstops and strategy gambles from Penske's Brad Keselowski and Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle led to any lead changes.
Johnson eventually got back to the front for good shortly after the final round of stops, overtaking Biffle's Ford with 29 laps remaining after the Roush Fenway driver had jumped ahead thanks to a two-tyre pitstop.
During the long green-flag stretch to the chequered flag following the last caution, Johnson was able to stretch his lead up to 4.7 seconds, the biggest ever margin of victory in the Brickyard 400.
Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon was the only driver who looked capable of getting on equal terms with Johnson but a poor final stop caused him to lose track position and hampered his attempt to prevent his team-mate from matching his four Brickyard wins.
Besides Gordon, Johnson joins AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears and Michael Schumacher, as one of only six drivers who have claimed four or more wins in major races at Indianapolis.
"I'm able to join racing legends, my heroes and people that I've looked up to during my entire life, so to join them is a huge honour," said Johnson.
"I knew second or third lap yesterday on the track that we were going to have an awful good chance of winning. The confidence that I had helped us through practice yesterday.
"There were a couple of moments where adjustments didn't work and I lost a little pace but I had a feeling and I knew we were going to be fine."
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch was a contender at the front for most of the race and recovered well from trouble during an early pitstop after the engine on his #18 Toyota shut off to finish second.
Biffle's strategy gamble alone was not good enough to win him the race, yet he had enough speed to finish in the top three despite an oversteering car and his grip deficit relative to other frontrunners.
Dale Earnhardt Jr finished fourth and claimed the lead in the points standings following a retirement from Matt Kenseth. The Roush driver crashed with Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano, who was sliding out of control in front of him after previous contact, causing the fifth and final caution of the day.
Gordon rounded out the top five, which was little consolation after having the potential to claim a record fifth win at Indianapolis. Early race leader Hamlin finished sixth after starting from pole and getting shuffled back during an early restart.
Keselowski stayed out when the leaders pitted for a second time and ran out of sequence for a while to lead 22 laps until getting back on the same strategy as Johnson and Gordon in the closing stages. However, contact during a restart with Regan Smith dropped him out of contention for victory.
Results - 160 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 2h54m19.000s 2. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota + 4.758s 3. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 7.813s 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 8.336s 5. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 10.230s 6. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota + 10.782s 7. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 12.654s 8. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 13.114s 9. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 14.028s 10. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 16.117s 11. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 16.931s 12. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 20.959s 13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 21.844s 14. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 23.448s 15. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 25.283s 16. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 25.555s 17. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 25.962s 18. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 26.977s 19. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 26.978s 20. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 28.908s 21. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 29.413s 22. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 32.727s 23. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 33.442s 24. David Stremme Inception Toyota + 37.727s 25. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 38.044s 26. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 41.409s 27. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 42.237s 28. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 44.525s 29. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 4 laps 30. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford + 4 laps 31. Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet + 6 laps 32. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 9 laps 33. Joey Logano Joe Gibbs Toyota + 16 laps 34. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 23 laps Retirements: Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 132 laps Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 126 laps Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 40 laps Scott Speed Leavine Ford 23 laps JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet 20 laps Josh Wise Front Row Chevrolet 19 laps Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 14 laps Mike Skinner Go Green Ford 11 laps Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 5 laps