DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson has once again put his name in the NASCAR record book.
For the first time in 31 years Daytona International Speedway was swept, Johnson completing the honors Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400. Surviving a green-white-checkered finish, meaning another late race restart, Johnson held off defending winner Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
“That’s tough to do at a plate track. Especially with how tight the rules are,” said Johnson in Victory Lane on his dominating car.
“I think I showed strength early and a lot of guys knew that and were willing to work with me, and kind of help me through situations, which is great. I don’t know if I really made a bad move tonight. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Johnson dominated the event, leading 94 of the race’s 161 laps for his fourth victory of the season. From the drop of the green flag Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet could go anywhere on the racetrack, whether it was trying to get the bottom to work, or sailing around the top when the race entered a long green flag run in which the field ended up single file.
Kyle Busch started on the pole for the 55th annual event and led an early portion. Teammate Denny Hamlin also took a turn at the front, inheriting the lead when the caution came out as green flag pit stops began when Joey Logano hit the wall on lap 71.
Both Busch and Hamlin’s days would later come to abrupt ends. Hamlin was first collected in a lap 98 wreck when Martin Truex Jr. got loose in front of him and spun. Hamlin ended up spinning all on his own later in the event, lap 157, and collected AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Gordon, Travis Kvapil, Matt Kenseth and Dave Blaney.
The brought out the red flag and set up a restart with seven laps to go. Just two laps later the caution was out again, this time the result of Kasey Kahne hitting the inside of the backstretch wall head on.
Kahne was running side-by-side with Johnson for the lad when Marcos Ambrose made a bold move to the middle. When Johnson moved over ever so slightly, it sent Ambrose into the side of Kahne.
Johnson quickly broke away with the lead on the GWC finish as Carl Edwards and a group of others wrecked in turn one. NASCAR chose not to throw a caution and let the leaders race to the finish. Stewart and Harvick had nothing for Johnson as another wreck broke out coming to the finish line. This time collecting Kyle Busch, Danica Patrick and Jeff Burton among others
“That’s amazing. I remember being in Southern California watching Bobby Allison,” said Johnson on the sweep.
“I remember where I was the day Davey passed away. That’s how much the Allison family meant to me. I always thought it was so great to watch Bobby and Davey race. To tie anything that Bobby has done is that’s pretty special. Very happy tonight.”
The victory marks the 64th of Johnson’s career and he remains the point leader, now by 49, over new second place driver Clint Bowyer. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the highest finishing rookie in 11th.
The NSCS moves to New Hampshire next weekend where Kasey Kahne is the defending winner. There are eight races before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.