Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to go from third to first in a single lap.
That describes Jimmie Johnson’s Superman effort yesterday at Auto Club Speedway as he notched career win number 77, surpassing Dale Earnhardt and making Johnson the lone man in seventh place on the all-time wins list.
After leading 23 laps, Johnson found himself watching Kevin Harvick drive off into the California sunset with two laps to go. But to Jimmie’s fortune, a caution came out and bunched the field back up for one final wild restart. Team Lowe’s Racing used their super powers in the pits and got the No. 48 Chevrolet out in third place. After a dynamite restart, Johnson juked beneath Harvick and was able to make the pass that would seal the win with the white flag in sight.
Superman led the final two circuits to steal the win, and as he took the checkered flag he shouted in elation, “Somebody get me my damn cape!”
Johnson was very proud of his team’s effort as he spoke in Victory Lane:
“Man, this is cool. To go there at the end and have good tires on the car, Harvick and I got by I guess Joey there at the start. I got a great run off of Turn 2 and I thought ‘man I’ve got a shot at this thing’. Which I didn’t expect to have, Harvick has been so fast. I cleared him and kind of got away. We saved our best for last for sure. I told everybody Superman would kick Batman’s butt and it happened. I’m very thankful for Lowe’s and the amazing relationship we have had over the years, Chevrolet, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, this is going to be a good time.
“An amazing pit stop on pit road got me right there in contention. An awesome start with the No. 4 (Harvick) and myself getting going. I got a great run off of Turn 2 down the back and at that point I thought I had a good shot at it. I cleared him in (Turns) 3 and 4 and just had to bring it back at that point. We had our best at the last there and really strong on the short run which wasn’t necessarily our strong suit earlier in the day. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made some great adjustments there to get me tuned up for that dash at the end.
“We need to keep doing this all year long, especially late in the season. Right now this Lowe’s Chevrolet is awfully fast and a lot of fun to drive.”
Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke about Johnson surpassing his late father:
“It’s something inevitable I guess. I remember when Jeff (Gordon) passed Daddy and now he got all the way up to 93 wins. Jimmie is going to have quite a few more. He may be surpass Jeff. That will be a great story as well since Jeff sort of brought him onto the team. Jimmie is… I’m not going to be surprised if he matches Daddy and Richard (Petty) in that championship deal if we can’t get it.”
“I told him he better do something (when Johnson won Atlanta three races ago and equaled his father). Don’t just do nothing or I would be insulted (laughs). He is a class act, a great guy. You are going to break a lot of guy’s records in this sport if you are Jimmie Johnson winning races like he is. You are going to break a lot of records. I appreciate the nod to Dad. I appreciate anytime anybody acknowledges that.”
With the win, Johnson only padded his super hero status at the two-mile SoCal oval. He now lays claim to the most wins (6), most top-five’s (13), most top ten’s (16), and continued his streak of finishing every lap of competition in his 22 starts at the track. Most impressive of all, he has finished first or second in half of his races in front of the hometown crowd.
Who needs to leap tall buildings in a single bound when you’re Jimmie Johnson?