In a rare display of dominance at a plate-restrictor race, Jimmie Johnson took over Daytona International Speedway Saturday night, leading 93 of the 160 laps to win the Coke Zero 400 and complete a sweep of the Daytona Double, taking both the 500 in February and the July 400.
Johnson had to withstand two crashes on the closing lap — where cautions were thrown but the race was still allowed to be completed — to garner his fourth Cup win of the year, tying him with Matt Kenseth for the series lead in victories.
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led 29 of the first 33 laps before a familiar scenario began unfolding: the rising tide of the No. 48 car. Johnson simply took over the famed 2.5-mile Florida superspeedway, even getting shuffled back to 16th after an untimely caution immediately following his green-flag pit stop. Little matter. Before long, Johnson was back again at the front of the midsummer classic.
Danica Patrick, who qualified 11th, ran competitively all night, running seventh with seven laps to go and rose as high as third two-thirds of the way through the race. Caught up in a last-lap wreck, she finished 13th. Johnson had led 82 laps when the race was red-flagged with 10 laps to go, following a big crash initiated by Denny Hamlin’s self-inflicted spin that took out five cars including Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
Johnson’s restart misdaventures that began with his controversial jump restart at Dover hung thickly in the air around the 48 camp, as the cars reignited for what would be the final dash to the finish, Johnson attempting to become the first driver in more than 30 years to sweep both Daytona races in the same year (Bobby Allison the last to pull off the double, in 1982). Johnson won the restart handily but Marcos Ambrose viciously punted Kasey Kahne into the infield wall to bring out the final caution.
This was it, a green-white-checkered ending to seal the deal. But Johnson never was challenged, as carnage unfolded behind him twice on the final lap.
It was Johnson’s 64th career Cup victory, and the winner of the race formerly known as the Firecracker 400 upped his championship points lead to 49 over Clint Bowyer, who knocked Carl Edwards from the runner-up spot after the latter was punted into the wall on the first of the final lap’s twin crashes. The Cuppers race the one-mile oval at New Hampshire this Sunday.
German Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel won his home grand prix for the first time in his star-studded Formula One career, taking the race at the legendary Nurburgring circuit in Germany for his 30th career F1 victory. The Red Bull Racing luminary had to fend off the closing charge of Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen over the closing laps but made the move of the race at the first corner of the opening lap, surging around pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton for a lead he never relinquished. Vettel holds a 34-point advantage over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in points.
Indy Pocono 500
Target Chip Ganassi Racing celebrated IndyCar’s return to venerable Pocono Raceway after a 24-year hiatus, with a stunning 1-2-3 finish topped by Scott Dixon’s trip to the Winner’s Circle Sunday at Long Pond, Pa.
With 27 laps to go in the 160-lap race, Ganassi first showed its 1-2-3 form, an accomplishment it had not experienced the entire season, with Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti following the winner — the best overall showing of the year by far for Honda-powered cars. Race-long leader Marco Andretti slowed for fuel conservation with 38 laps to go, which allowed the battle for the front to become a scramble before the Ganassi cars took control.
Read Alan Ross’ article on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 in "Lindy’s Sports 2013 Pro Football Preview" at newsstands everywhere.