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Jimmie Johnson started the 600-mile event from the pole position and showed no intention of giving up his top spot. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS held onto the lead for 49 laps and continued to race in the top three after that. At Lap 127, Johnson told crew chief Chad Knaus that his patriotic-themed No. 48 Chevy SS felt loose on Turns 1 and 2. To combat the issue, Knaus tightened up the car during a yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 150 and a solid restart four laps later put Johnson in the top position once again. At Lap 214, Johnson told Knaus that he may have a tire coming apart and was forced to pit early under a green flag. Johnson made his way back into the top-five by Lap 238 after staying out of pit road during a cycle of yellow-flag pit stops. He cracked the top three again at Lap 267. Johnson was on pit road when the caution flag was waved at Lap 274, which allowed him to take the lead for the seventh time of the night. He lined up third for the final restart of the night with 17 laps to go and charged his No. 48 Chevy SS to the front.
An intense battle with Matt Kenseth ensued in the final ten laps of the race and Johnson took the lead with eight laps to go. Johnson led 10 times for a total of 164 laps, snapping a 12 race winless streak, giving the No. 48 team its first win of the season. Johnson’s victory tonight was his seventh win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which breaks a tie for the most all-time wins at the North Carolina oval. His last win at Charlotte came in October 2009, when he won his second of three races starting from the pole position.
Johnson’s win gave Hendrick Motorsports its 18th Cup win at the 1.5-mile speedway- and Mr. Hendrick’s 11th600 win- ranking first all-time among all teams. This was his 67thcareer cup series win and this win also virtually guarantees him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne joined Johnson in the top 14, finishing seventh and 14th, respectively, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced a late-race issue and finished 19th.
WELCOME BACK TO VICTORY LANE THE LONG NIGHTMARE IS OVER:
“There are more people fretting about things than myself. I mean what 12 races? Give me a break. Obviously it’s great to win and we are very happy to win here especially in the backyard of Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe’s headquarters is just up the road as well. A huge night, all the executives from Lowe’s are here. I can’t wait to have a cold beverage with those guys. Just stoked for the night. Very good race car. We raced up front all night long and that last restart let us bunch up to those guys on two (tires) and our four (tires) were able to prevail.”
WAS THERE A POINT YOU WERE CONCERNED YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO CATCH (MATT) KENSETH?
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Chad (Knaus) made me think I could get to the No. 24, but the No. 99 was up there and that is who he was afraid on the radio I wouldn’t be able to run down. Sure enough we were able to catch a caution and I think the No. 27 and No. 99 had to pit. When the No. 20 got away I thought ‘man I’m not going to be able to run him down.’ I saw him missing the bottom tight in (Turns) 3 and 4 and I thought ‘okay I’ve got a little something for him.’ And was able to get by with a few laps to go.”
YOU NOW HAVE MORE CUP WINS AT CHARLOTTE THAN ANYBODY ELSE – 7 – HOW ABOUT THAT?
“That is amazing. That is very cool. This is no easy race track to get around and to beat the greats that were before me I’m very proud of that.”
ON HIS RACE:
"It's great to win, but believe me - and I promise you - all the hype and all the concern and worry, that was elsewhere. That wasn't in my head; there are plenty of voices in my head, I'm not going to lie! We've had great races and we've had opportunities there in front us and had stuff taken away. And we've had bad races; I have to be honest about that too. I'm so proud of this Hendrick Motorsports-prepared race car, Chad Knaus and the leadership of this race team, and the great, great support from Lowe's and KOBALT Tools. And do this on Memorial Day… just thank you to all the men and women who served our country."
WHAT WAS THE KEY TONIGHT?
"It was such a long race and so many things going on. The track went in a little bit different direction than I thought it would from a handling setup. Once we got on top of that, we were real competitive. I really think clean air on those restarts were key. I was happy to get by the No. 24 and then the No. 20. I wasn't sure I was going to get by both of them, but I did and brought this baby home."
WILL PEOPLE START TO FEAR THE NO. 48 AGAIN?
"Yeah, they know we're awake. In winning, it doesn't matter who you are. The No. 4 car has had that momentum this year. They've been able to go out and execute and show a lot of speed and win. Hopefully this 48 is heading that way and we can get those other people thinking about us."
NEXT UP:DOVER, Sunday June 1 at 1p.m. on FOX, MRN Radio