Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jimmie Johnson Gives Hendrick 200th Win at Darlington

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

The only trip to the Darlington Raceway, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series becomes one with its roots at one of stock car racing’s oldest paved speedways. A tricky 1.366-mile track presents its own character that can often outwit the best personalities in motorsports.

Becoming a Mother’s Day weekend event in recent years, the Southern 500 race sponsored by Bojangles started Saturday night under sentimentality that quickly turn to the business of racing 500 miles. On pole, Greg Biffle continues has early season stride in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup race when the green flag flew on the Bojangles Southern 500. The Roush Fenway Racing #16 Ford Fusion would lead the first 48 laps of the evening kicking out what would be a 173-lap stretch of green flag racing.

When the first round of pit stops cycled with Kasey Kahne, Landon Cassill and Jimmie Johnson credited with leading a lap through the exchange, the #18 Toyota of Kyle Busch took for 21 laps. Greg Biffle would reassume the lead of the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on lap 73 and would hold it for an additional 26 circuits.

Aside from the leader, intense attention was devoted to deeper in the field to the #10 Chevrolet being driven by Danica Patrick. Only her second career NASCAR Sprint Cup event, Patrick’s run with the Chevrolet in the Bojangles Southern 500 was more productive than her debut at the Daytona 500. Caught in the lap 1 multi-car wreck at the Daytona International Speedway race, Darlington would see Patrick endure the rigors of an entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Though Danica Patrick finished the race with an intact Chevrolet Impala, she would finish 6 laps down in 31st spot. Not helping her attempt to adapt to the premier stock car tour was the long green flag run that gave Patrick and other competitors few opportunities to fine-tune their car setups.

Photo Credit: Brian Czobat autostock, USA

On lap 101, the #48 Chevrolet made its way to the top spot in the hands of Jimmie Johnson. Though the first 10 races of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the four-car team of Hendrick Motorsports has set out on a quest for the organization’s 200th series win. While Johnson and other within the Rick Hendrick group came close to delivering the win number 200, the feat had been eluded early in the season with some efforts coming within laps of the monumental victory. Showing his strength before the one-third mark of the event at Darlington Raceway, the question was will the Bojangles Southern 500 for the site for a major Hendrick Motorsports celebration?

A caution for debris on lap 173 slowed the record pace of the race. After the long competitive run under green, the first cautions as well as several cautions following brought relief to many race cars lapped through the event. By lap 184, only 14 cars resided on the lead lap at Darlington Raceway as the field led predominantly by Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch dominated. At points in the event, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr had their Saturday night race rescued by the NASCAR free pass. By the end of the race, 21 cars would be fortunate enough to be classified on the lead lap after 500 miles.

The #22 Dodge of AJ Allmendinger and the #1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray were not among the lead lap finishers after a wreck on lap 317. Also part of late-race mayhem was the #39 car of Ryan Newman. Four cautions through the race’s final 49 scheduled laps would force the hands of various teams contending on the less than predictable Darlington Raceway surface.

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR

In the final laps, the battle for the win was between the #48 Lowes Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch’s #18 Doublemint Toyota. Trading the lead several time on-track, Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports-owned car grew much stronger than the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch taking the lead affirmatively on lap 325. Leading the final 44 laps that included a final green-white-checkered challenge from the #14 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson sailed to victory of the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington.

In what was one of the biggest celebrations seen for a long-time from the Hendrick Motorsports crew, Jimmie Johnson kicked off the festivities by a wild burn-out on the Darlington Raceway frontstretch. When concluded, talked about his run that involved leading a total of 134 laps. “We led a lot and we ran away once we had the clean air. But once we lost it, man, it was tough to make anything happen deep in the pack. And luckily we had a good enough car that I could work my way through there and still got it done.” said Johnson in post-race interview.

Owner of the #48 race team, Rick Hendrick talked about his race organization‘s milestone saying, “I can’t believe we won 200 of these things. I can’t believe it took this long after 199. I want to remember all those folks we lost. And everybody that helped this thing happen.” However, a telling comment on Johnson’s NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner motivation comes from the Hendrick Motorsports driver."You have got to love that man (Rick Hendrick), he just said 200 is great but let’s go get 250. So that tells you where his head is, I love it. Oh man, what a day.” said Jimmie Johnson.

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

After 368 laps, Denny Hamlin surged into the runner-up spot with his #11 Toyota taking the position from Tony Stewart who finished the Bojangles Southern 500 in 3rd with a Hendrick Motorsports-prepped customer car. Rounding out the top-5 of the Darlington event was Kyle Busch and the #56 Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. Just before of the top-10, Roush Fenway Racing Fords piloted by Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards took top-10 runs. The pole-sitting Roush Fenway contender would come home 12th holding onto the points lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

While Jimmie Johnson and his #48 team enjoyed a triumphant victory, the other Hendrick Motorsports cars had a mixed night. Kasey Kahne finished 8th while Dale Earnhardt Jr brought his #88 Chevrolet across the line 17th. Suffering a flat rear tire around the mid-point of the event, Jeff Gordon once again met misfortunate on the race track finishing 35th.
“It’s the same old story. We’re running good. We have fast race cars. We’re doing everything we can as a team and just having things like that happen to us.” said Gordon.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ next race is the exhibition event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 19th serving as the prelude to the Coca-Cola 600 set for Memorial day Sunday night the following week.

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Bojangles Southern 500
Darlington Raceway
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Sponsor/Car Make
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
2 11 Denny Hamlin Sport Clips Toyota
3 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot / MOBIL 1 Chevrolet
4 18 Kyle Busch Wrigley Doublemint Toyota
5 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
6 17 Matt Kenseth Zest Ford
7 99 Carl Edwards Ford EcoBoost Fusion Ford
8 5 Kasey Kahne Rockwell Tools Chevrolet
9 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
10 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
11 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota
12 16 Greg Biffle 3M / OH / ES Ford
13 27 Paul Menard Menards / Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet
14 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row / CSX Play it Safe Chevrolet
15 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
16 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
17 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard Chevrolet
18 31 Jeff Burton BB&T Chevrolet
19 43 Aric Almirola Gravely Mower Ford
20 55 Mark Martin Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
21 51 Kurt Busch Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet
22 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford
23 39 Ryan Newman WIX Chevrolet
24 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
25 38 David Gilliland A&W All American Food Ford
26 83 Landon Cassill Burger King / Dr. Pepper Toyota
27 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet
28 34 David Ragan Peanut Patch / Margaret Holmes Ford
29 47 Bobby Labonte Scott Products Toyota
30 32 Reed Sorenson Southern Pride Trucking Ford
31 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
32 73 Travis Kvapil Burger King / Dr. Pepper Toyota
33 22 AJ Allmendinger Shell Pennzoil Dodge
34 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Allstate Chevrolet
35 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger / AARP Chevrolet
36 93 David Reutimann Burger King / Dr. Pepper Toyota
37 49 JJ Yeley America Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents Toyota
38 74 Cole Whitt Turn One Racing Chevrolet
39 30 David Stremme Inception Motorsports Toyota
40 87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota
41 52 Mike Skinner Toyota
42 79 Scott Speed Team Kyle / KOMA Unwind Ford
43 26 Josh Wise Morristown Drivers Service Ford

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