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Johnson stays ahead of crash-filled finale, wins at Daytona (VIDEO)


In a green-white-checkered finish, Jimmie Johnson stayed ahead of multiple melees that ensued on the final lap to win the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway – becoming the first driver to sweep both the Daytona 500 and DIS’ summer 400-miler in the same year since Bobby Allison did it in 1982.

Johnson led 93 of 160 laps en route to the win, which increased his lead in the Sprint Cup championship to 49 points over Clint Bowyer.

“I don’t know if I really made a bad move tonight, so I’m pretty proud of that,” Johnson told TNT in Victory Lane. “I had a great horse to ride…When I was growing up in California, I watched Bobby Allison and I remember where I was the day [Bobby’s son] Davey passed away. That’s how much the Allison name meant to me.

“To do anything that Bobby’s done is pretty special.”

Kevin Harvick was third, followed by Bowyer in fourth and Michael Waltrip in fifth.

Johnson was leading Tony Stewart when the first of two multi-car incidents on Lap 161 was triggered by contact in Turn 1 involving Casey Mears and Carl Edwards. Because it took place well behind the leaders, NASCAR opted not to throw the yellow and let the field race to the checkered flag.

That battle went to Johnson, but as the five-time Sprint Cup champion was crossing the line in first, another wreck was happening farther back in the tri-oval. The second incident appeared to begin with contact between Danica Patrick and David Ragan, which turned Patrick into another car. When the smoke finally cleared, ten cars were involved in the crash, including Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.

Multiple reports from NASCAR and media members at Daytona say that all drivers involved in the last-lap incidents are OK.

The G-W-C finish came about after two previous accidents within the final 11 laps.

With five laps to go, Johnson and teammate Kasey Kahne were battling for the lead when third-place driver Marcos Ambrose made contact with the five-time Sprint Cup champion in an apparent attempt to pass in the middle lane. That sent Ambrose into Kahne, who was sent skidding hard into the backstretch wall to bring out what would be the final yellow of the night.

“Jimmie moved up and blocked the outside row coming, so at that point, I had the lead,” Kahne told TNT. “I had followed Jimmie a lot throughout the race and felt really good, and the next thing I know, I get slammed. That’s kind of how these [restrictor-plate] races go – you don’t have a lot of control over some of the things that happen here.”

The Johnson/Ambrose/Kahne dust-up followed a multi-car incident with 11 laps to go that brought out the red flag. Coming out of Turn 4, Denny Hamlin tacked left then shot right into the tri-oval wall. Matt Kenseth barely dodged Hamlin but A.J. Allmendinger was unable to and sent the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the air briefly before it came to rest on the infield grass. The spinning Kenseth would collect Jeff Gordon and Dave Blaney as well.

Hamlin and Allmendinger were eventually checked and released from the infield care center.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.