Johnson leads HMS brigade to win at Talladega
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“I’m proud to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
It’s no wonder. After all, the four-car operation claimed the top-four starting spots during pole qualifying on Sunday and all four cars were around at the end to post top-10 finishes.
Jimmie Johnson led to way, claiming his first win of the season, beating Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer by 0.002 seconds, making Sunday’s race finish one of the tightest since NASCAR went to electronic scoring. Johnson’s margin of victory matches Ricky Craven’s margin of victory over Kurt Busch at Darlington Raceway in 2003 as smallest win margin in NASCAR in the electronic scoring age.
“It was fun,” Bowyer said after the race. “We just came up a little short.”
The Roush Fenway Racing duo of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle led the way with two laps to go, but were passed by HMS’ Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin just before the field took the white flag for the final lap. The RFR duo of Edwards and Biffle lost a little ground and Bowyer and teammate Kevin Harvick moved to the front to battle Gordon and Martin.
Edwards and Biffle recovered and Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson used momentum to make the race to the win an eight-man battle between Gordon, Martin, Bowyer, Harvick, Edwards, Biffle, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt Jr. pushed Johnson on the inside right up beside Gordon and Martin. Contact between Earnhardt Jr. and Martin resulted in Martin falling back from Gordon, breaking up their draft. As a result, Johnson and Bowyer both got a nose on Gordon to finish first and second.
“We had big mo (momentum) on our side,” Johnson said in victory lane.
After the photo finish, NASCAR deemed Johnson the winner and Bowyer the second-place finisher. Gordon was third, Earnhardt Jr. fourth, Harvick fifth, Edwards sixth, Biffle seventh and Martin eighth.
“I can’t thank Junior enough,” Johnson said.