Johnson Wins Talladega Thriller

Jimmie Johnson

The margin of victory of 0.002 ties the closest margin of victory (Darlington - 3/16/2003) since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Jimmie Johnson got a last lap push from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to edge Clint Bowyer at the finish line to tie the closest finish in NASCAR history and win Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Johnson and Earnhardt rocketed past the leaders on the final lap of the race with Johnson nipping Bowyer by .002-seconds at the finish line to tie the mark set by Ricky Craven in his Darlington victory over Kurt Busch in 2003. The two finishes ranks as the closest since NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in 1993.

Johnson scored his first win of the season and 54th of his Sprint Cup Series career.

“We were just the lucky guy at the end with a good run,” Johnson said. “We had some big mo on our side, and off we went.”

Earnhardt and Johnson had teamed up for most of the race and elected to hang back in the pack until the closing stages before making their run, When they did they sped past Hendrick teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon before finally running down Bowyer.

“I can’t thank Junior enough,” said Johnson, who celebrated the win in Victory Lane with Earnhardt. “He made the decision that my car was faster leading. And the way these things are finishing up, the lead car’s going to get the win. In some respects, he was more worried about the team having a good performance than anything.”

The race featured a record tying 26 different leaders swapping the top spot 88 times and even Bowyer was amazed at the day of racing despite coming up short at the finish.

“If you didn’t like that finish and forget about the race, there’s something wrong with you,” Bowyer said. “It always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor-plate races. We always have a hell of a finish.”

Bowyer, Gordon, Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick rounded out the first five finishers.

Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Martin, David Gilliland and Joey Logano completed the top 10.

While the race was punctuated by several incidents there weren’t any of the infamous Talladega “Big Ones” Sunday afternoon.

The biggest of the day came on lap 140 when five cars tangled including last week’s Texas winner Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.

“I was just going straight on the bottom following Kurt (Busch) and got hit in the right-rear and put me straight in the wall,” Kenseth said of the crash that also included Denny Hamlin and A.J. Allmendinger. “I don’t really know what happened to cause that. Obviously, something happened beside me that got somebody into my right rear. I didn’t even know it was coming, just driving straight hoping to miss the rest of the bullets and get to the end and just got in a wreck.”

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne’s hopes of pulling off another restrictor-plate victory were thwarted when he was swept up in an accident on lap 90. Kurt Busch made contact to the rear bumper of Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski to set off a chain reaction that swept up Bayne.

“That was one of the harder hits I’ve taken, just because it was so much of a frontal impact across the track, off the apron, all the way to the wall,” Bayne said. “I don’t know who got us. I saw the 6 blowing up in front of us, so I keyed up the mic. I’m like, ‘It’s getting crazy in front of me, Greg’—I was on Greg Biffle’s radio at the time. As soon as I said that they blew up, Greg got off of me because I yelled, ‘Blowing up, blowing up.’

“He got off of me and at the same time the 2 car got hooked somehow. I don’t know that they triggered each other; I just saw the 2 get hooked at the same time the 6 was on fire. He (Keselowski) goes across the track, I saw him hit the outside wall, but then I don’t know who caught us in the right rear and sent us. But I thought we were safe. I was like, ‘Man, that was close,’ and about the time I said that I was headed toward the outside wall. So not a fun ride.”

Edwards leads the point standings by five over Johnson with Earnhardt Jr. Harvick and Kurt Busch rounding out the first five.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes Easter weekend off before returning to action at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night, April 30.

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