DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson became the first driver in 31 years to sweep at Daytona International Speedway, accomplishing the feat with a dominating run Saturday night for his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season.
The Daytona 500 winner is the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982, and the fifth overall, to win both races in a season at Daytona.
“I don’t think I made a bad move tonight. I’m pretty proud of that,” Johnson said. “To tie anything that Bobby did is really special. I’m very proud of that. I’m going to take that home and savor it pretty well.”
The five-time NASCAR champion was the leader on the restart for a two-lap sprint to the finish in overtime in the Coke Zero 400. He held off Kevin Harvick on the restart, and then pulled out to lead. Tony Stewart moved into second and might have been timing his attempt to make a pass for the lead when a caution in the middle of the pack froze the field.
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Stewart finished second, ahead of Harvick in a Chevrolet sweep.
Clint Bowyer was fourth and team co-owner Michael Waltrip fifth in a pair of Toyotas.
The race was stopped for almost nine minutes for a six-car accident with 11 laps remaining that included yet another vicious hit for Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin’s car inexplicably turned right and spun hard into the frontstretch wall. It then turned back into traffic and Hamlin was tagged hard by AJ Allmendinger in a collision that caused his car to lift off the ground.
Both he and Allmendinger had to collect themselves after climbing from their wrecked cars, but both were evaluated and released from the infield care center.
Hamlin missed four races earlier this season with a compression fracture in a vertebra in his lower back, and absorbed a hard hit last Sunday in Kentucky.
Also involved in the late accident with Hamlin and Allmendinger were Matt Kenseth, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and Jeff Gordon.
“I saw the wreck and tried to slow down and miss it, but just not much I could do,” Kenseth said.
The race resumed with seven laps remaining and Johnson leading teammate Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw. Johnson made a move to the high line to block Marcos Ambrose and it put Kahne out front in the bottom lane of traffic.
But as the two Hendrick Motorsports drivers drag-raced around Daytona, Ambrose clipped the side of Johnson as he attempted a sudden lane change. He slammed into the side of Kahne, causing Kahne to spin and hit an inside retaining wall for another caution with five laps remaining.
Kahne angrily tossed his head-and-neck restraint into his car after climbing from the wreckage.
“That’s kinda how these races go,” said Kahne, who finished 32nd of 43.
Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was 17th.
In overtime, Johnson was leading Harvick, Bowyer, Stewart and Jamie McMurray. He wasn’t challenged as neither Stewart nor Harvick could make a move before the race-ending caution.
“Glad I was ahead of all the chaos,” Stewart said.