Johnson sweeps Daytona ahead of two last-lap wrecks
The Scoop: Jimmie Johnson continued his winning ways and had no problems with restarts, as he won Saturday's Coke Zero 400, becoming the first driver to complete a Daytona season sweep since Bobby Allison in 1982. Johnson started 8th and hung around that point before taking the top spot for the first time on lap 31 and then holding it securely from laps 33 to 70. Joey Logano's crash during a set of green flag pit stops on lap 71 brought the drivers that had already pitted to the front, giving Denny Hamlin the lead and putting Jimmie Johnson 16th on the restart. A shuffle amongst the leaders put Hamlin to the back of the top 5 on lap 99 and right behind Martin Truex Jr. when he spun and collected Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya. Truex Jr.'s No. 56 was totaled, Montoya went to the garage, and Hamlin lost a lap with his No. 11 getting repairs in the pits. Hamlin teammate Kyle Busch, who led 28 laps in the race, also made contact with Hamlin in the crash and pitted at least three times to repair the right-front of the No. 18 Toyota. Busch drove straight from outside the top 30 to inside the top 10 after the earlier crash damage. Hamlin would eventually get a free pass and return to the lead lap, after a crash that swept up David Stremme, Aric Almirola, and others on lap 128. But Hamlin's good fortune would run afoul on lap 150, when he would spin down the track and trigger a crash that collected race-winning favorite Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, and David Reutimann and then back up the track and collide with A.J. Allmendinger and Dave Blaney. Matt Kenseth led the first lap of the race and had hung in the top 10 - he seemed he had the car to lead a line to the front when the crash took him from contention. With under five laps to go, Johnson led the inside line with teammate Kasey Kahne right behind him and then switched to the outside lane in front of Marcos Ambrose. Then Ambrose tried to jump to the middle with three laps to go to maybe pass Johnson and Johnson blocked Ambrose into Kahne's right side, body slamming Kahne sideways across the skid pad and into the inside wall head-on. This set up a green-white-checkered finish, raising questions about Johnson and the money restart. But Johnson was the leader and controlled it, so no problems arose. Johnson held off Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick to capture the tie for the Sprint Cup Series lead in wins with four. In Turn 2 of the final lap, Carl Edwards collided with Scott Speed, collecting Joe Nemechek and Ambrose. NASCAR left the race green, as this happened in the back of the pack. Then approaching the start-finish line, Danica Patrick (who had been running in the top 10) spun and collected a whole wad of cars as they crossed the line. The race saw alternating dominance of the outside and inside lines, with passing both easy and hard, as cars behaved in a strange way when they got side-by-side. The racing conditions also alternated from being single-file to double-file and even three-deep at other times.
140 Characters or Less: RaceTweet: Johnson Daytona season sweeper first time in over 30 yrs. Two crashes crunch 1/3 of field last lap. Hamlin wrecks again.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Jimmie Johnson - The only thing he did wrong was change lanes in front of his teammate Kahne and eventually cause him to wreck. Johnson led almost 70 laps more than the next driver (94 to Kyle Busch's 29) and managed his line perfectly in the closing laps to stave off the challenge of either the outside or inside line.
North Korean Missile Dud of the Race: Carl Edwards - For the 2nd week in a row, Edwards gets this. He never reared his head anywhere close to contention and then wrecked on the last lap…while running outside the top 20. Edwards has yet to win a Cup race at Daytona.
Never Fear, Underdogs Are Here - Michael Waltrip - He doesn't drive for an underdog team, but Waltrip only runs the plate races these days and does a good job of it. He ran 22nd at Daytona in February for Swan Racing and then 4th at Talladega in May for his own No. 55. He came out of nowhere to finish 5th Saturday, after getting spun and damaged on pit road. Props go to Casey Mears (9th) and J.J. Yeley (13th) for good underdog runs, though that last crash damaged their cars.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here - Kyle Busch - He also gets this for the 2nd-straight week, this time after pitting multiple times during a caution to replace the right front body of his car. He immediately drove into the top 10 and ended 12th, after getting caught up in the last big crash at the finish line.
Wheel of Misfortune - Paul Menard - His quiet consistency had kept him inside the Chase bracket early in the season, but as teams around the No. 27 win, the importance of winning increases for Menard. Saturday was a good night for that to happen, as he was running 3rd when his Earnhardt-Childress Racing power plant ignited on lap 24. His 43rd-place finish dropkicked him to 20th in points.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns - Jimmie Johnson - Why in the world did he switch lanes and leave his teammate Kahne, who had pushed him most of the race, by himself? That makes no sense and it did cause Kahne to wreck later, but it very well could have been a race-winning move. This is another instance, though, of Johnson playing a bad teammate at a plate race - ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. about that.
Ghost Driver - Jeff Burton - Burton rode in the back the entire race…no joke…only to get wrecked at the end of the last lap and finish 16th. Burton is very good at plate races, but never even got to put his sponsor Kwikset on camera.
Georgia on My Mind - David Ragan never flexed any Daytona muscle, choosing to ride in the back after starting 38th. He barely missed the first of the last lap crashes and finished 22nd. Reed Sorenson was never a factor in the Nationwide Series race on Friday and was pushed even further from contention by a blown engine and to a 39th-place finish.
NNS 140 Characters or Less - Kenseth takes cake with Buescher tandem. Only one big crash. Kurt Busch falls short in Cole Trickle car.
Next - The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while the Camping World Truck Series returns at Iowa Speedway. The NNS races first on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN and then the NCWTS Saturday night at 8:30 on SPEED. The NSCS runs its final race (or string of commercials) this season on TNT Sunday at 1 p.m.
Send your racing questions in for The Racing Inbox to Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com or Twitter.com/DougTurnbull