Jimmie Johnson Wins The Bojangles' Southern 500
By Jeff Wackerlin
Motor Racing Network
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 12, 2012) - Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win when he took the checkered flag in Saturday night's Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Johnson led six times for 134 laps, including the final 44, en route to his third triumph at the historic track and the milestone win for owner Rick Hendrick.
"Very proud of the effort that the whole 48 team put together," Johnson said. "We've been awfully close to winning the 200th for him the last month or two. Very happy that we closed the deal today."
The win was the 56th of Johnson's career. Since the first win on April 29, 1984 when Geoff Bodine went to Victory Lane at Martinsville Speedway, 15 drivers have comibined to give Hendrick the milestone victory. Jeff Gordon leads the group with 85.
After attending a wedding earlier today, Hendrick was able to get to the track just in time to watch the final 100 laps and watch Johnson score the win.
To celebrate the special win, all the Hendrick Motorsports teams posed for a photo on the Darlington frontstretch wearing their 200th win hats. In the post-race interview in the Media Center, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus presented their team owner with a special helmet that was signed by some of the drivers and family members that have helped get him to this occasion.
"I told somebody tonight, probably the neatest thing when I look back at NASCAR in my almost 30 years here are the friends that I've got, that I have to race against every week, Richard Childress, Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske, all those guys," Hendrick said. "Great friends. This is a special I don't care what anybody says family. The NASCAR family is a special family. I'm honored to be able to sit here with these guys tonight. This will be the centerpiece of the man cave."
Hendrick Motorsports is only the second team in Sprint Cup history to reach 200 wins. Petty Enterprises leads the way with 268.
The final two-lap dash was set up when Kurt Busch's No. 51 Chevrolet slapped the wall and after riding through Turns 1 and 2 spun on the backstretch and collected Ryan Newman in the aftermath.
After the race, the Phoenix Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing teams were involved in a pit road scuffle as a number of crewmembers began pushing and shoving one another before NASCAR officials broke things up.
Denny Hamlin, who was sporting a special retro paint scheme to honor NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Cale Yarborough, started on the outside of row 2 on the final restart and was able to score a second-place finish on a night that saw him lead 56 laps.
"It was a great effort for our Sport Clips team," Hamlin said. "Our finish is because of the crew chief making good calls and the pit crew making good pit stops. That kept us in the ballgame, kept our track position up front."
One of those calls came when Hamlin's crew chief Darian Grubb opted to keep the No. 11 Toyota out on the track on lap 196 while the leaders pitted. The move boosted Hamlin from 10th to the lead and he was able to get back on the pit cycle on lap 232 when the caution flag flew.
Tony Stewart overcame a number of issued that included a broken clutch problem and then losing fuel pressure on the final lap to equal his best Darlington finish in third.
“It ended up really good,” Stewart said. “I was really proud of Steve Addington and all of our crew. You know, considering the hurdles of the day, I'm pretty happy with a third place run.
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who combined to lead 69 laps, rounded out the top five.
Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano completed the first 10 finishers.
While Johnson was celebrating the win for Hendrick Motorsports in Victory Lane, it was another frustrating night for his teammate Gordon. The four-time series champion’s season-long struggles continued when he suffered two flat tires. He was credited with a 35th place finish.
The race was slowed by seven cautions overall. However it began with a 172-lap green-flag run - the longest caution-free start to a Darlington race since the caution-free race in 1963.
Greg Biffle, who is still the series point leader by two over Kenseth, finished 12th after leading 74 laps from the pole.