Johnson returning to scene of June restart controversy

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Jimmie Johnson believes that NASCAR’s recent tweaks to its restart rule were helped along by what occurred to him on the final restart of the Sprint Cup Series’ first 2013 visit to Dover International Speedway back in June.

Johnson was penalized by NASCAR for jumping that restart, which caused him to be relegated to a 17th place finish after pacing 143 laps on the afternoon.

He insisted that second-place Juan Pablo Montoya was going too slow coming out of the restart zone, but in his own explanation of the matter, NASCAR senior vice president Robin Pemberton said at the time that the penalty was “cut and dry.”

On Friday at Dover, where the Chase for the Sprint Cup will continue this weekend with the AAA 400, Johnson looked back on the incident and noted what he sees as its later impact.

“Oh yeah, it definitely had a role in [the restart changes],” Johnson said. “I think it was three or four restarts I was a part of that helped shaped the rule that we have now.

“I think it’s a good fix. I think it’s a good compromise between protecting second on a lot of these mile and a half [tracks] where we have an apron that drivers can shoot down onto and make a pass. I think it’s protecting second place from that situation.

“At other race tracks and like what happened to me here, where the leader doesn’t go, it takes that away from the leader. So I think it’s good. I think it’s a good compromise for what the drivers and the front row have to manage…I hate that it took so long, but I think it’s a good change.”

With that matter settled, Johnson is focusing in on an eighth career win at the “Monster Mile” after starting the Chase with back-to-back Top-5 finishes. But after Matt Kenseth’s hot start to the post-season with two consecutive victories, Johnson knows he can’t expect an easy drive on Sunday.

“I know it’s a good track for the No. 18 [Kenseth’s car] and historically, Matt has been strong here when I think back to some of the Roush [Fenway] days years ago, they are not too far back,” he said.

“I think with how he has been running this year, he’s going to be tough to beat and we will just get out there and race hard and get every point we can.”

Johnson enters Dover third in the championship, 18 points behind Kenseth.

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.