Jimmie Johnson dominated Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, becoming the first driver to sweep both Daytona races in a single season since Bobby Allison in 1982.
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Johnson led 93 laps under the lights, dominating the proceedings to put the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into victory lane for the fourth time this season and the 64th time in the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion’s career. Johnson, who has led the Sprint Cup points standings for most of the season, now ties Matt Kenseth for most victories on the season.
Tony Stewart, last year’s race winner, finished second in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, followed by the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevy of Kevin Harvick. Then it was the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas of Clint Bowyer and Waltrip and Kurt Busch in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet.
Unlike the Daytona 500, where he led just 17 laps, Johnson drubbed the field on Saturday night and was able to lead at will up top or on the bottom lane. No one had anything for him all night.
“I showed strength early and a lot of guys saw that and were willing to work with me and kind of help me through situations, which is great,” Johnson said. “And I don’t know if I made a bad move tonight, so I’m pretty proud of that. I had a great horse to ride.”
As for the sweep, Johnson added, “That’s amazing … to do anything that Bobby’s done is pretty special.”
“That’s some strong Hendrick horsepower up there,” said Stewart, the race runner-up, who like Johnson used a Hendrick engine in his car.
The defining moment of the race came on Lap 156 of the scheduled 160-lap distance. Johnson was leading with Kasey Kahne on the bottom when Marcos Ambrose tried to dive between them. But Johnson moved down for the block, and Ambrose hit Kahne, driving him into the inside of the backstretch wall.
On the final restart, Johnson pulled away easily, but there were two crashes behind him, taking out a number of drivers, including Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick.