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.