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Jimmie Johnson Storms to Close Finish at Talladega

April 18, 2011

Article first published as Jimmie Johnson Storms to Close Finish at Talladega on Technorati.

At the end of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway you could have thrown a big blanket over the top six cars at the finish line. Jimmie Johnson’s charge to pass Clint Bowyer at the finish line tied the record for closest margin of victory at 0.002 seconds.

I can say with confidence that was the most competitive race ever at Talladega. Using a two car strategy perfected at Daytona in February, partnerships were the order of the day. By the end of the race there had been 88 changes for the lead, also tying the record set at last years April race at the Dega.

On the beginning of the last lap, Jimmie Johnson was running in seventh place with his race-long partner Dale Earnhardt Jr. close behind. At that point any one of a dozen cars could have surged to victory.

When the white flag fell the leaders were Jeff Gordon being pushed by team-mate Mark Martin. Following them were Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. In the fifth and sixth spots were Clint Boyer and Kevin Harvick.

By the time they reached turn one Bowyer/Harvick had passed the Edwards/Biffle tandem with Johnson/Earnhardt tucked in behind. On the backstretch Boyer took Harvick up the track and Gordon/Martin went low. Sitting in fifth, Johnson looked for the best duo to pair with ad Bowyer gathered momentum and edged pass Gordon.

At turn three Johnson tried to get beneath Martin and execute the path but at that point lacked the momentum to make it happen.

As the leaders enter the corner, Johnson tried to duck the nose of his car to the low side of Martin but there’s no room down low. At the midpoint of the corner, Johnson sees a possible opening in between the two pairs, but Gordon won’t allow that to happen, forcing Johnson to follow the RCR duo instead.

At turn 4 Gordon/Martin rode the yellow line at the bottom of the track with a slight edge over Boyer/Harvick. Johnson/Earnhardt held a higher line behind the RCR cars. Edwards/Biffle was close behind in 7th and 8th.

As they entered the tri-oval Gordon pulled Martin up the track to try to slow Boyers momentum as they were near to executing the pass for the win. This allowed Johnson/Earhardt to go low and run along the bottom underneath Gordon/Martin.

Entering the tri-oval

Seeing that Bowyer may have a run to his outside, Gordon slides up one lane in an attempt to use the side draft to slow their advance. At that moment, Johnson makes the decision that ultimately wins the race. He veers sharply to the inside of both two-car drafts and Earnhardt is able to catch up quickly and get back in a position to push. Johnson’s left-side tires appear to touch the yellow line.

Coming out of the tri-oval staring at the finish line Bowyer/Harvick had a slight edge over Gordon/Martin, but Johnson/Earnhardt would not be denied and passed at the finish line for a margin of victory of 0.002 seconds. The above picture tells the story.

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

Sprint Cup teams return to racing on April 30th for a night race in Richmond.

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