Jimmie Johnson became the first man to win both the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Daytona events in a single season in 31 years as he dominated Saturday night’s round.
Following the Daytona 500 win in February that launched his season, championship leader Johnson had the edge over his rivals for most of the night on the series’ return to the venue. He led 94 of the 161 laps and broke away from the pack in a green-white-checkered finish.
“Had a great horse to ride — got White Lightning in Victory Lane,” Johnson said after climbing from the car. “It’s tough to [dominate] at a plate track. Especially with how tight the rules are. I think I showed strength early, and a lot of guys were willing to work with me and help me through situations. I don’t know if I really made a bad move tonight, so I’m pretty proud of that.”
Johnson was doubly proud to join Allison, Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough as the only drivers to sweep both Sprint Cup races at Daytona in a single season.
“Gosh, growing up in Southern California and watching Bobby Allison, and I remember where I was the day [Bobby’s son] Davey passed away (after a 1993 helicopter crash at Talladega),” Johnson said. “That’s how much the Allison family meant to me. I always thought it was great to watch Bobby and Davey race, and to do anything Bobby has done is pretty special.”
Tony Stewart did his best to find a way around Johnson’s Hendrick Chevrolet over the final lap, but did not have the momentum and had to settle for second. Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. followed them across the line.
There was chaos behind, with two separate multi-car crashes erupting on the final lap, the first when Carl Edwards was spun at Turn 2, the second when Danica Patrick was turned across the pack at Turn 4.
The GWC finish had been prompted when second and third-placed Marcos Ambrose and Kasey Kahne clashed with five laps to go, firing the American into the wall. Prior to that there had been a red flag 10 laps from the finish. Denny Hamlin spun up the track, causing Matt Kenseth to slide into Jeff Gordon in avoidance, and was then collected by AJ Allmendinger. That was Hamlin’s second event of the night following an earlier spin with Martin Truex Jr in which Kyle Busch also got caught up.
Both Hamlin and polesitter Busch rejoined after repairs and fought back into the lead group before further incidents, with Busch hitting the wall hard in the second final-lap crash.
Results - 162 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 2. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +0.108s 3. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +0.213s 4. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +0.296s 5. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota +0.303s 6. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +0.360s 7. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +0.414s 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +0.469s 9. Casey Mears Germain Ford10. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford12. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota13. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet14. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet15. David Gilliland Front Row Ford16. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet17. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford18. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota19. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford20. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford21. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford22. David Ragan Front Row Ford23. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota24. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet25. Josh Wise Front Row Ford26. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford27. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota28. Scott Speed Leavine Ford29. David Reutimann BK Toyota +2 laps30. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +5 lapsSome time gaps unavailable due to last-lap crashesRetirements: Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 155 laps Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota 154 laps* Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 151 laps AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet 149 laps Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 149 laps David Stremme Swan Toyota 127 laps Aric Almirola Petty Ford 127 laps Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 126 laps* Joey Logano Penske Ford 105 laps* Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 97 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 33 laps Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 23 laps* Running again at chequered flag