Nothing’s certain but death, taxes, and Jimmie Johnson contending at Dover

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Jimmie Johnson’s emergence as the most dominant stock car racer of the last decade has no doubt been fueled in part by his success at Dover International Speedway.

Last fall, Johnson won at Dover for the eighth time and it proved critical in his ultimately successful bid for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

What’s been impressive is that Johnson, along with crew chief Chad Knaus and his Hendrick Motorsports team, has been able to stay strong over the years at Dover through multiple generations of cars.

No matter the changes, no matter the rules package, they’ve always been at or near the front at this track. To Johnson, it all comes down to finding the proper feeling behind the wheel.

“Over time, as things change, I just pay attention to the feeling I’m looking for and we work through whatever challenges are thrown at us with different tires that are brought in and also [different] generations of car,” he said.

“This is still the Gen-6 car, but there’s a different rules package under it. [But] regardless of change, there are some tracks that just work well for you and you’re able to still find that feeling you’re looking for regardless of circumstances.”

Johnson figures to be a threat as usual in Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at the Monster Mile, where he not only has the all-time wins record but also leads active drivers in several critical “loop data” categories including average running position (6.8), fastest laps run (990), and laps run in the Top 15 (6,261, or 86.9 percent of the time).

Dover arrives in the middle of a traditionally strong set of tracks for Johnson, counting Charlotte Motor Speedway – where he won last weekend in the Coca-Cola 600 – and Pocono Raceway, where he’s won three times in his career (including last summer).

All three tracks are drastically different, with Charlotte as a standard 1.5-mile quad-oval, Dover as a concrete mile, and Pocono as a 2.5-mile triangle with three unique corners.

But in Johnson’s mind, they’re the “most technical tracks we go to” – which could be interpreted as a reason behind the 48 crew’s success at those circuits.

“Set-up is key, and communication between driver and crew chief is key,” he said. “Charlotte and Dover, you have such loading characteristics as you’re on the straightaway lunging off into the corner that you can draw some similarities between those two tracks.

“But Pocono – it’s so different, I don’t know how to even draw a parallel other than it’s tough to get around. Dover isn’t easy, Charlotte isn’t easy, and neither is Pocono.”

Formula 1: Ricciardo nurses power unit trouble to win in Monaco

Photo: Getty Images
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Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo had dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend heading into Sunday, topping every practice session and laying down a lap-record 1:10.810 to secure the pole.

The race itself was also going according to plan for Ricciardo, as he got the jump off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the start to lead into Sainte Devote.

However, on Lap 28, after the leaders all made their lone pit stops of the race, Ricciardo’s day nearly came unglued when he reported a loss of power on his RB14.

With the Red Bull team monitoring the issue, Vettel was able to close back in on Ricciardo and began stalking him for the lead.

However, Ricciardo brilliantly utilized a combination of late-braking and sustained cornering speed to keep Vettel at bay and secure his first victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The victory, Ricciardo’s second of the 2018 Formula 1 season, serves as sweet redemption after a pit stop error cost him a possible victory in 2016, when he settled for second behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel, meanwhile, saw his challenge hampered after a Lap 72 Virtual Safety Car for a crash between Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley – Leclerc suffered brake failure on the run up to the Nouvelle Chicane, and collected Hartley in the process.

When the VSC ended, Vettel could not get his Pirellis back up to temperature, and Ricciardo pulled away in the final laps.

While Vettel ended up second, Hamilton rounded out the podium in third, despite struggling with a graining issue on his Pirelli ultrasofts in the second half of the race. Hamilton held off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who also fended off Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas for fourth – the trio finished up third (Hamilton), fourth (Raikkonen), and fifth (Bottas).

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Force India, with Pierre Gasly coming home a strong seventh for Toro Rosso. Nico Hulkenberg ended up eighth for Renault, while Max Verstappen came home ninth after starting last – Verstappen ran long on his first stint before switching to hypersofts on Lap 48. He ran the hypers all the way to the end to finish ninth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was the final points finisher, coming home tenth for Renault.

Results are below.

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