Johnson Gets Hendrick's 200th Win at Darlington
After months of frustration, Jimmie Johnson gave Rick Hendrick his 200th Sprint Cup Series victory, running away from the rest of the field on a green-white-checkered restart that took the Bojangles' Southern 500 one lap past its scheduled distance. On Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, Johnson ended his own winless streak of 16 races, a drought of relative epic proportions for the five-time champion. The victory was Johnson's 56th, breaking a tie with Rusty Wallace for eighth on the all-time list. Denny Hamlin ran second, followed by Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Johnson won the 199th race for Hendrick, outdueling Kasey Kahne in last year's Oct. 9 Chase race at Kansas Speedway. In subsequent months, the organization has been tantalizingly close to No. 200 -- notably at Martinsville, where Hendrick drivers were running 1-2-3 before a late caution. On Saturday night, in winning for the third time at the Lady in Black, Johnson finally put the question of the 200th win to rest. After pitting for the final time on Lap 299 of 368, however, Johnson had to save fuel to make it to the checkered flag. All of Johnson's 56 victories have come under the Hendrick banner. For the second consecutive year, the track's Sprint Cup event was capped by a melee, this time involving the teams of Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. Andy Reuger, gas man for the No. 39 car, approached Busch's team and had to be restrained. In the skirmish that ensued, a NASCAR official ended up falling over the hood of Busch's car. Some of those involved say it was little more than a shoving match, but NASCAR thought enough of the incident to summon Reuger and No. 39 crew chief Tony Gibson to the Cup transporter after the race. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said shortly after the race that the sanctioning body had spoken to Newman, but not Busch or any member of the No. 51 team. Pemberton said Newman told him Busch said he didn't mean to hit the No. 39 car on pit road after the event, and that the contact occurred when Busch was removing his helmet. NASCAR was still evaluating the dustup, Pemberton said, and any penalties will be issued next week if warranted.