Jimmie Johnson Wins No. 4 at Indy, Dale Jr takes Points Lead
Honestly though, to tune in and see Dale Earnhardt Jr once again running up near the front, when he qualified only 20th, was enough to make me forego the yardwork I had planned, and plunk myself down on the couch for the duration. Good thing I did, because history was once again made at the Brickyard, when Jimmie Johnson won for the fourth time, tying with his team owner, Jeff Gordon for the most wins of any NASCAR driver. He also tied with his childhood hero, Rick Mears, who won four times in IndyCar. Al Unser Sr. and Tony Stewart's hero, AJ Foyt, have also won four times.
When asked how it felt, Johnson could only say he was at a loss for words. The team had plenty of noise to make though, cheering on their driver as he did a smoke show in front of them, then traveled backwards around the track, checkered flag proudly displayed out the window, ALA Alan Kulwicki. Team owner, Rick Hendrick, was onhand for the win, and first to congratulated JJ when he pulled - or rather, was pushed - into Victory Lane.
Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Kasey Kahne, the fourth HMS driver, and named favorite for the race, hit the wall early on but managed to come back for a 13th place finish.
A late race spin by Joey Logano collected points leader, Matt Kenseth, crumpling his left front fender and ending his day. The result was a jump for Dale Jr into the top spot. He now leads Kenseth by 14 points. Earlier this week, Earnhardt and crew chief, Steve Letarte were interviewed and my husband caught the interview. Earnhardt shared with the fans that before his pairing with Steve, he really wasn't part of the team. He simply showed up to drive the car, and expected it to drive well. All that has changed with Letarte, who insists that Dale Jr attend team meetings, which start at 7am. Earnhardt has long been famous for sleeping in, not hitting his stride until mid afternoon, then staying up until the wee hours of the morning. Maybe Steve Letarte has just made Dale Jr grow up a little more? In any case, Jr does now attend team meetings, and he is gaining more insight into the operation of the race car. As he put it, [sic} "I give him input and they take that information and work with it. They give me information I need to drive the car better. But I still don't like getting up early."
All those early mornings have paid off, and in his fourteenth year of racing, Dale Jr says he finally knows how to drive the cars. And he is the points leader.
Not only that, next week, if he wins at Pocono, one lucky fan in attendance will win $1,000,000. Now if that isn't incentive to go to a race, I don't know what is.
(KissTheBricks photo courtesy of HMS)