Sunday Talladega Notebook: Jimmie Johnson "drops like a rock" but leaves Talladega with points leadAustin Dillon was running third off Turn 2 on the final lap of Sunday's race when a tap from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sent him spinning into the outside wall and into the path of Casey Mears' Ford. The violent impact from Mears' car launched Dillon's Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy into the air.
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
TALLADEGA, Ala. — With a No. 48 Chevrolet that dominated much of Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Jimmie Johnson finished a disappointing 13th—but he left the 2.66-mile track with a nice consolation prize.
Johnson overtook 20th-place finisher Matt Kenseth for the Chase for the Sprint Cup lead and holds a four-point advantage with four races left. Next weekend the series heads for Martinsville, Johnson's best track statistically, and one of Kenseth's worst.
Johnson's hopes for a victory were foiled, however, when race winner Jamie McMurray migrated to the top of the track with roughly 20 laps left and brought most of the contenders with him.
"At the end there, the No. 1 (McMurray) decided to run the top and took the bulk of cars with him," Johnson explained. "As that happened, the middle lane that I was in quickly became the bottom lane and then quickly didn't exist. I dropped like a rock for a while and was able to get in the outside lane and start making some spots back and fortunately missed the big pile up on the backstretch (Austin Dillon's wreck, which ended the race under caution).
"Obviously, I was paying attention to where the No. 20 (Kenseth) was. I was (paying attention to) the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick), the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) and was in and around and ahead, I think, of most of those guys. Thirteenth isn't the best finish, but with what we are trying to do and win a championship, we beat the competition today, and that's good."
WILD WRECK FOR DILLON
Austin Dillon was running third off Turn 2 on the final lap of Sunday's race when a tap from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sent him spinning into the outside wall and into the path of Casey Mears' Ford. The violent impact from Mears' car launched Dillon's Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy into the air.
Though the cars were destroyed, the drivers escaped unhurt.
"Got to thank Tony Stewart and everyone at Stewart-Haas for giving me this opportunity, because it was so much fun," said Dillon, who was driving the No. 14 Chevrolet in relief of the injured Tony Stewart for the final time this year.
"I was trying to help the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr., running second at the time) right there at the end, and they had a run, the 17 (Stenhouse). So I went low, and when I was coming back up, he just hooked me. And when he hooked us, it was over. But a wild ride. I just have to thank NASCAR for everything they have done for safety. That hit was fine. I got to drive the car back, and it's a lot of fun when you have good safety equipment and can go after it like that."
THE WAITING GAME
Jeff Gordon kept waiting and waiting, but no one made a move. As Sunday's race at Talladega rolled toward the finish, no one wanted to jump out of the single-file line at the top of the track and risk getting freight-trained.
"Shocking, shocking," Gordon said after the race. "You never know. I mean it's smart for those guys up front to do that, because it eliminates a lot of cars out of the running for the win. But I've never seen guys have that much patience here in my life.
"So I was pretty shocked to see them just holding that line like they did. Of course, they hold that line that one time when we were back there in 25th or whatever it was, so I wasn't real happy at that moment. But we just hung in there and made a couple of moves there at the end."
Gordon finished 14th but lost ground to teammate Jimmie Johnson who ran 13th and took the series lead from Matt Kenseth.
"We didn't really gain anything, but we didn't really lose anything," said Gordon, who is fifth in the standings, 34 points behind his teammate. "So it was sort of a wash. And in that sense, we didn't tear up a race car. I'm standing here. And we just move on to the next four (races)."