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

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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.

Theriault clinches ARCA title before finale at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) There is no long, convoluted story about how Austin Theriault came to Ken Schrader Racing, forging a team that so dominated the ARCA Series that it captured the title simply by showing up for the finale.

“We both wanted something to do,” the folksy Schrader said with a smile and shrug before Friday night’s race at Kansas Speedway. “He didn’t have a car to drive and I didn’t have a driver.”

So, they solved each other’s problem.

Theriault hopped into the seat and proceeded to win seven times over the first 19 races, building such a lead on his nearest challenger that he sewed up the title at Kentucky. And that made for a rather enjoyable weekend at Kansas, where all the pressure was off their team.

Along the way, Theriault became the first driver to win at a superspeedway, short track, dirt track and road event in the same season, and he swept the superspeedway and short-track challenges.

If there was something to win, he won it.

“I hoped we’d have a shot at it and it’s proved out this year that we’ve really exceeded anybody’s expectations,” Theriault said. “We had some things to work on early. We kind of dusted off a bit, went back to work. We had some time between Daytona and the mile-and-a-halfs that came up later in the season, and we realized where we were strong and where we had to work.

“But in the end it came back to pure dedication, I think,” he explained. “The amount of time it took behind the scenes to make this happen.”

The 23-year-old driver from Fort Kent, Maine, knows something about dedication. He appeared to be on racing’s fast track, scoring a Truck Series ride a few years ago for Brad Keselowski, when a terrifying crash at Las Vegas left him with a broken back and sitting on the sidelines.

The best ride he could find last year was in the K&N Pro Series.

It was at a trade show in Indianapolis last December that Theriault ran into Schrader, who was busy putting together a team for this season. They had dinner a couple nights later and, Schrader said, it was his wife Ann who came away impressed by the yes-sir, no-sir driver.

“My wife doesn’t go to all the races,” Schrader said. “After we talked she said, `I like that guy. How good is he?’ She doesn’t know. I knew he was racing well in Keselowski’s truck, had an unfortunate wreck, had to sit out a bit. I told her, `That’s somebody who could make us very happy next year.”‘

Theriault delivered on that promise.

They weren’t the only ones happy Friday, either. Zane Smith earned his second pole of the season, beating teammate Sheldon Creed to earn the top spot for the Kansas ARCA 150, while 20-year-old Natalie Decker announced a full-time ride with Venturini Motorsports next season.

“This is obviously a big step in my career,” said Decker, who made six starts as a rookie this season. “I’m confident and ready for this next move. After tonight my focus shifts to next season. We’ll be ready to go at Daytona.”