Johnson gets first win of the season in Aaron's 499

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
.002 seconds-that’s the very slim margin of victory Jimmie Johnson had over Clint Bowyer in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. The margin of victory tied the closest margin of victory since the advent of electronic scoring when Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch finished side-by-side at Darlington Raceway back in 2003. The win was Johnson’s first of the season, the seventh different winner in eight races this season.

“That was crazy,” said Johnson. “With maybe one and a half, two to go, I thought we were in trouble and it wasn’t going work out. And then we got hooked back up; I think Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) was overheating and we got disconnected one time and those two lead groups siding side-drafting and slowed each other up. I had a good run into three but nowhere to go with it and then by the time we got back to the tri-oval, we had another big run going and those guys were worried about side-drafting each other towards the top of the track and left that bottom wide open for us and we rallied our way through there.”

Johnson’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was drafting behind Johnson and pushed him to the victory. To express his gratitude, Johnson pulled up alongside Earnhardt’s car after a victory lap and a burnout, got out of the car, and handed Earnhardt the checkered flag.

“Well I got it and gave it to him,” said Johnson. “He goes I don’t want it. I said well I’ve got to give you something, here. Thanks. He’s got the checkered flag over there and can’t wait to tilt a cold one back with him and thank him for a good job done today.”

Johnson and Bowyer were three-wide at the finish, with Jeff Gordon in between them. Bowyer got a push from Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick while Gordon was pushed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin. The finishing order was (1) Johnson, (2) Bowyer, (3) Gordon, (4) Earnhardt, (5) Harvick, and (6) Edwards. Martin lost ground after he tried to move around teammate Gordon to take a shot at the victory.

“You know we blocked the bottom and the 29 and 33 got on the outside of us and we were maintaining a drag race there and that just opened up a slot there for the guys behind us to get momentum and to get to the inside of us,” said Gordon. “We maybe could have tried to block it but I am pretty happy with our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet and don’t forget to text hunger to 50555.”

There was some doubt following the finish as to whether or not Johnson had passed Martin below the yellow line in the tri-oval. NASCAR determined that Johnson had not advance his position below the yellow line and was allowed to keep the win.

In total, the race had a total of six cautions for 24 laps. The biggest accident of the day came on lap 91 when Kurt Busch made contact with Brad Keselowski and sent him spinning. Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose, and Trevor Bayne were also involved in the incident. Busch was in fact involved in several accidents, also getting into Brian Vickers and Dave Blaney during the race.

“Man, a busy day with the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge today. Restrictor plate racing and this two-car draft is really tough and I was in the middle of a bunch of incidents. I feel bad for wrecking a bunch of cars, especially my teammate Brad (Keselowski). We got shuffled out to finish 18th. I ran with the 20 (Joey Logano), 36 (Dave Blaney) and then the 14 (Tony Stewart) at the end and just got separated a bit and shuffled back.”

The 88 lead changes tied the record number of lead changes in a single NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The record was set in last year’s spring race at Talladega.

Bowyer led the most laps of any other driver, leading the field to the start/finish line 36 times. While the bonus points might prove to be helpful down the road, Bowyer feels like an opportunity was missed.

“You know that win -- if I would have won right there, it could have put me in the Chase,” said Bowyer. “I was thinking about that. That's going to be important throughout the year, and you know, that was a good shot at it. It just slipped through our fingers.”

Edwards maintained the points lead following his sixth place run, and now holds a five point lead over second place Johnson. Johnson gained two positions after the victory, while Earnhardt moved up three spots to third. Harvick and Busch rounded out the top five.

Final Rundown:

1.       Jimmie Johnson
2.       Clint Bowyer
3.       Jeff Gordon
4.       Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5.       Kevin Harvick
6.       Carl Edwards
7.       Greg Biffle
8.       Mark Martin
9.       David Gilliland
10.   Joey Logano
11.   A.J. Allmendinger
12.   Paul Menard
13.   Martin Truex Jr.
14.   David Reutimann
15.   Regan Smith
16.   Jeff Burton
17.   Tony Stewart
18.   Kurt Busch
19.   Andy Lally
20.   Robby Gordon
21.   Jamie McMurray
22.   Casey Mears
23.   Denny Hamlin
24.   Bobby Labonte
25.   Ryan Newman
26.   Bill Elliott
27.   Dave Blaney
28.   Michael Waltrip
29.   Travis Kvapil
30.   Juan Pablo Montoya
31.   Landon Cassill
32.   Marcos Ambrose
33.   Brad Keselowski
34.   Terry Labonte
35.   Kyle Busch
36.   Matt Kenseth
37.   Kasey Kahne
38.   Brian Vickers
39.   David Ragan
40.   Trevor Bayne
41.   Joe Nemechek
42.   Steve Park
43.   Kevin Conway
Johnson gets first win of the season in Aaron's 499 Johnson gets first win of the season in Aaron's 499 Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Sunday, April 17, 2011 Rating: 5