NASCAR Cup Series
Johnson fades after strong start
NASCAR Cup Series

Johnson fades after strong start

Published May. 16, 2011 12:22 a.m. ET

Jimmie Johnson has the Monster mastered like no other driver.

Just not Sunday.

Johnson led a race-high 207 laps at Dover International Speedway, but settled for a ninth-place finish on the concrete track dubbed The Monster Mile.

''Led a lot of laps but unfortunately, not the one at the end that counted,'' Johnson said.


Johnson's six wins at Dover are second behind only Bobby Allison and Richard Petty. He started from the pole and was on his way toward a run at No. 7. Only Carl Edwards gave him a challenge - he led 117 laps - until both were done in by pit stop strategy at the end. They took four tires when Matt Kenseth called for two. That was enough to spark Kenseth into Victory Lane - and the second-guessing to being for the other drivers.

''Looking back, it's easy,'' Johnson said. ''At the time, we had done four all day. We saw some two yesterday (in Nationwide) and it didn't pan out. Four looked like the call.''

Johnson called the result of crew chief Chad Knaus' decision, ''no big deal.''

Johnson had won three of the last four Dover races, including a sweep in 2009. He expects to tie the track record for wins. His next chance is Oct. 2 in a Chase race.

''I would love to be in Victory Lane but we will have to do that when we come back in the fall,'' he said.


SINKING SMITH: Regan Smith's team shouldn't expect a call from the governor this week.

A week after Smith was the talk of the sport with his first career victory, Smith plummeted back to reality with a 34th-place finish at Dover.

The No. 78 Chevrolet had broken bar mount on lap 334.

''What a difference a week makes,'' Smith said. ''Our car really picked up steam during the second half of the green flag run before the caution came out. We were definitely in position to make a late-race charge and get a nice finish out of this race.''

Smith enjoyed the perks from taking the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway. He received countless congratulatory messages from fellow drivers, fans and others in the sport. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called team owner Barney Visser (Furniture Row Racing is based in Denver) to offer his well wishes.


WORST TO FOURTH: Kyle Busch started the weekend with engine failure that dropped him to the back of the pack.

He ended it at Dover with a run to remember - Busch maneuvered his way through traffic to finish fourth.

Unlike winner Matt Kenseth's call to take two tires on the final pit stop, Busch's No. 18 Toyota crew went with four.

''We kind of worked our way up and passed most of those guys on the restart,'' Busch said. ''You just had to get as much as you could right then and there on the first two laps of the restart. It was a tough race for us, but we ended up looking really good considering how our weekend was.''


FEELING GOOD: Brian Vickers was in a hospital bed a year ago, knocked out of the race because of blood clots in his veins around his lungs and in his legs. He wouldn't race again the rest of the season.

He's struggled this year, but he's back. At Dover, he was rewarded with his first top-five of the season.

''It's a special race for me,'' he said. ''Last year, I didn't make it here. Last year, I was laying in the hospital with IV's in both arms when this race was going around. It feels pretty good to finish it, and finish it well.''


KAHNE'T FINISH: Kasey Kahne had at least a top-10 finish in sight. He was running ninth and the race was less than 70 laps from completion when trouble hit. His No. 4 Toyota had an engine problem and he was stalled on the track.

His car was pushed to the pit area and he was finished. He was 36th.

Kahne knew there was a problem early in the race when he couldn't get the car going on restarts.

''I over-revved it one time trying to get it to go,'' he said. ''I think that probably had something to do with why the engine let go. It was probably a little bit my fault, but it wasn't running. I don't know, it's kind of a bad deal.''


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