Jimmie Johnson withstands multiple late restarts to win at Pocono

3 Comments

One week after losing a potential victory at Dover on a restart penalty, Jimmie Johnson managed to stave off his rivals on multiple late restarts to win today’s Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Johnson had to contend with a vibration on his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as well, but still was able to lead 129 of 160 laps. However, after a long run of mostly green-flag action, the race took on a disjointed feel with five caution periods within the final 35 circuits.

That enabled the front-runners to make it to the finish on fuel, but that also meant Johnson had to fend off repeated attacks on his lead when the green flag would come back out.

“Those restarts – man, there’s only so many tricks you have,” Johnson told TNT’s Marty Snider in Victory Lane. “[You have] to play by the rules. They were figuring out everything I could do in that [restart] zone, and fortunately, I was able to get the lead and everything worked out in the end.”

The final two restarts of the day had Johnson’s HMS teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., poised to strike in second place after a quietly impressive afternoon. But each time, Johnson was able to hold off NASCAR’s most popular driver, and on the final restart, Greg Biffle managed to get past Earnhardt for second.

“We want to get a win,” said Earnhardt, who wound up third. “I could see it right there in front of me today. Jimmie had been so fast all weekend but I really thought we got close. If we keep getting closer, we’ll get one.”

As for Biffle, who vaulted from fourth to second on the final restart with four laps remaining, he felt that he didn’t have anything for Johnson but still wished he could’ve gotten closer to him.

“I was gonna have to get up beside him and take the air off him – something to try and get an advantage,” said Biffle. “But I gave him such a good push on the restart, I couldn’t catch up with him. When we got single-file, that was the first time I’d been up front and I thought my car would be good enough to try and catch him, but I couldn’t get him.”

Tony Stewart followed up his win one week ago with a solid fourth-place run, and his teammate Ryan Newman was right behind in fifth to mark a solid day for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.