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Jimmie Johnson dominates at Daytona

By David Scott
dscott@charlotteobserver.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Jimmie Johnson won a wreck-filled Coke Zero 400 on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, becoming the first driver to sweep both Daytona races since hall-of-famer Bobby Allison did it in 1982.

Cup points-leader Johnson won in a green-white-checker finish, despite two accidents breaking out behind him on the final lap. He finished ahead of Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip.

The first wreck on the last lap occurred in Turn 1, the second one on the front stretch as cars approached the finish line.

Another big crash had just come on Lap 150. It involved several cars, including Denny Hamlin, A.J. Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and David Reutimann. Hamlin appeared to start the wreck on the front stretch, when he lost control and hit the wall. Hamlin’s Toyota got airborne, as did Kenseth’s, farther down the track.

“I think I showed strength early,” said Johnson, who won for a fourth time this season. “There were a lot of guys who were willing to work with me. I don’t know if I made a bad move tonight.”

Kyle Busch dominated the early portions of the race and led until Paul Menard’s engine blew on Lap 23 for the race’s first caution. Menard had finished all 17 previous races this season before bowing out Saturday.

“I haven’t had a motor failure in forever,” said Menard, who started sixth and was running third at the time. “We were just kind of biding time there and it gave no indication, absolutely no warning.”

Johnson took the lead on Lap 33 and led for next 70 laps. Kahne stayed right behind him as drivers tried to figure out whether the low or high lines worked best. At that point, the bottom of the track seemed to work best.

Joey Logano hit the wall on Lap 69, causing significant damage to the right side of his Ford. He returned to the race after missing several laps.

“It was a big hit, but a bigger hit for us in points, more anything,” said Logano, who started the race 10th in the standings.

Denny Hamlin took the lead after the caution, then saw Jamie McMurray go ahead on Lap 93.

The race’s biggest wreck came on Lap 98, when Martin Truex Jr. got loose in Turn 4, sweeping along Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya. Truex hit the inside wall in Turn 4 hard.

Kurt Busch finished sixth, with Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounding out the top 10.

“It’s good to get a top 10, we’ve been working for that all year long,” said Stenhouse. “Hopefully we can keep this going.”

Up next for the Cup series is the New Hampshire 300 next Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kasey Kahne won last year’s race.

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