DOVER, Del. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson pulled away on the final restart Sunday to win at Dover International Speedway and become the fifth NASCAR driver with 10 or more Sprint Cup victories at a single track.
Johnson led the final 23 laps, staying out on cold tires when other contenders made late race pit stops. The six-time series champion has 10 wins in 27 career starts on the concrete mile track. He needed five extra laps beyond the scheduled 400 because a late accident brought out the caution.
He has four wins this season, 74 in his career and has won at least four times in a season 11 times.
Johnson took his familiar spot in victory lane and took a quick, congratulatory phone call from team owner Rick Hendrick.
“I know what I’m capable of and felt just fine doing it,” Johnson said. “And, I’ve got a great rhythm. I’ve got great support at home.”
Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola.
No active driver owns a track like Johnson does Dover.
Johnson joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (Martinsville-15, North Wilkesboro-15, Richmond-13, Rockingham-11, Daytona-10), Darrell Waltrip (Bristol-12, Martinsville-11, North Wilkesboro-10), Dale Earnhardt (Talladega-10) and David Pearson (Darlington-10) as drivers to win 10 races at a single track.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and also won races in 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Harvick held a comfortable lead until the field was bunched on a late caution. Kyle Busch, who was in the top five, connected with Brian Scott to end the race for each driver. Busch, who poked his head inside Scott’s window for a chat, was unhurt in his second points race since he suffered leg and ankle injuries at Daytona.
Busch needs a win and to hit the top 30 in the points standings to become eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick and Johnson both stayed out during cautions. Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus gambled that the No. 48 Chevrolet was as stout on four cold tires as others would be on two or four fresh ones.
He was right. Johnson never lost control, even with two more cautions, including one that that came after Clint Bower, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch all tangled on the track. Casey Mears wrecked to bring out the final caution with three laps remaining.
“I was trying to be smart with my line and I guess guys on two tires weren’t all that fast,” Johnson said. “The No. 4 (Harvick) and I did just fine on old tires and held those guys off.”
Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps (131) for the third straight race, yet failed again to win. He was sixth.
Tony Stewart was as many as three laps down and finished 26th at the track where he last won a Cup race on June 2, 2013.
Stewart’s pit crew hustled to recover chunks of concrete in his stall. This was the second straight year there were broken slabs of concrete during the race. The race last June was stopped 160 laps into the race after Ryan Newman’s car knocked up hunks of concrete from the track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has said he wanted Dover to ditch concrete for asphalt.
Earnhardt was among a small group of drivers that included Hamlin and Harvick who met with NASCAR officials on Saturday night to discuss issues in the sport, including safety.
“It was a good, positive meeting,” Harvick said.