Jimmie Johnson joins legends with Brickyard victory

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears, Jeff Gordon, Michael Schu­macher.

With his daughter at his side, Jimmie Johnson kisses the Indianapolis Motor Speedway bricks after his win.  ROBERT BAKER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ROBERT BAKER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
With his daughter at his side, Jimmie Johnson kisses the Indianapolis Motor Speedway bricks after his win.

Now add Jim­mie Johnson to the list.

The fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway wrapped its 104-year-old arms around another four-time winner Sunday, when Johnson ran away with an easy victory in the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard.

In the process, Johnson elevated his standing in motorsports, joining a select few who have won at least four times at the most iconic racetrack on the planet.

Foyt, Unser and Mears each won four times in the Indianapolis 500. Gordon and Johnson won the Brickyard 400 four times. Schumacher holds the track record with five U.S. Grand Prix wins in Formula One.

Sunday’s victory bodes well for a possible sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship for Johnson. He won titles during the other three seasons he triumphed at Indianapolis.

On Sunday, he led 99 of 160 laps and easily pulled away from Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle on a final restart with 20 laps to go. As Biffle and Busch ran side by side for position, Johnson was able to pull ahead by 100 yards in less than a mile.

He won by more than a half-mile.

There was very little passing, especially up front. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin led the first 27 laps then Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet was out front for all but 34 of the remaining 133 laps.

“If it wasn’t for the 48, we were probably in our zip code on the rest of the field, but Jimmie Johnson was in his own country today. We just couldn’t keep up with him,” second-place Kyle Busch said. “That was the best we had, and it seemed like that was the best anybody had.”

“His car was down and digging. It definitely had a lot of grip and definitely was really fast.”

Biffle was second for the last re-start, but he knew he had no chance to keep up with Johnson.

“It didn’t really matter if you were in front of him or not, he was going to pass you in about four or five laps anyway,” Biffle said after settling for third place. “His car was just really, really good.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth to move into the Sprint Cup Series points lead, while Jeff Gordon was fifth, Hamlin was sixth and Ryan Newman was seventh.

“My gosh, he had it pretty easy up there,” Gordon said.

After the race, Johnson took an extra lap around the 2.5-mile oval. That allowed him to absorb everything that came with the moment.

“That victory lap was something special,” he said. “To come here and win is a huge honor. I just hoped to come here and race. I never knew it would turn out like this.

“This fourth, I’m able to join racing legends, my heroes, people I’ve looked up to my entire life, so to join them is a huge, huge honor. I know how much it means to Rick (Hendrick, car owner), and thankful for all of his support and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, and thankful to Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and my guys.”

Carl Edwards, who came into the race 11th in the standings without a win, hurt his chances to qualify for the upcoming Chase for the Championship as a top-10 driver or a wild card entry by dropping four laps early with engine issues. He wound up 29th.

Matt Kenseth crashed with Joey Logano and Bobby Labonte. He finished 35th and fell from the points lead to trail Earnhardt by 14 heading into next week’s race at the Pocono Raceway.

POINTS LEADERS

1. D. Earnhardt Jr. 731

2. Matt Kenseth 717

3. Greg Biffle 709

4. Jimmie Johnson 704

5. Denny Hamlin 667

6. Kevin Harvick 653

7. Martin Truex Jr. 653

8. Tony Stewart 652

9. Brad Keselowski 649

10. Clint Bowyer 643

11. Kyle Busch 588

12. Carl Edwards 582


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