Just when we thought Jimmie Johnson had lost his golden horseshoe, he goes and finds it again.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver came into the 16th race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season with zero career wins at a road course; before Sunday, he had an average finish of 17th at Sonoma and an average finish of 13th at the series' other road course, Watkins Glen. With three DNFs already this season, Johnson was looking to turn things around in his home state.
Johnson finished the first practice session for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway 11th before putting his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet second in qualifying, losing the pole to defending race winner Kasey Kahne.
It was a solid weekend all around for the defending Sprint Cup champion, who finished both practices on Saturday fourth on the charts. He was able to snag the lead away from Kahne and led the first 33 laps of the event, eventually giving up the lead to Tony Stewart.
Johnson would lead three times on the day for a total of 55 laps. With six laps to go, the field ran under caution after Brad Keselowski spun in turn seven. Marcos Ambrose had been leading, but when he suddenly stopped on the track attempting to save fuel, NASCAR wouldn't allow him to retain his spot, since he didn't maintain “a reasonable speed.” That handed Johnson the lead and, ultimately the victory.
"My bad," the Australian said. "Just feel really disappointed. Might not like the call, but it is what it is. I know the rule. It's a judgment call."
It was Johnson's fourth win of the season, and sent him four spots up in the points to second, 140 points behind Kevin Harvick. It's also the second highest number of wins this year, with Denny Hamlin having the most with five.
Speaking of Hamlin, it was a rough outing for all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars; Kyle Busch was the innocent victim when A.J. Allmendinger punted Clint Bowyer, which along with Busch collected Daytona 500 champ Jamie McMurray. On lap 66, Hamlinwas caught up in one of the day's messy restarts, when a chain reaction caused the whole field to bottle up.
And that wasn't the end of Hamlin's problems on the day. Later on in the race the hood of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota flew up, and his crew had to direct their blind driver back to pit road. Busch finished the day 39th, Hamlin 34th and Logano, who spun in turn 10 on lap 86, finished 33rd.
It was also a crazy day for Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski, as they embraced NASCAR's “have at it, boys” policy to heart. Gordon infuriated Martin Truex, Jr. so much after their on track contact that he promised revenge on the four time champion.
“What comes around goes around and if these guys don't have any respect for me, I ain't gonna have none for them. And I'll get him at Loudon,” Truex, who finished 42nd, said.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Thanks to Jayski, Racing Reference, the Associated Press, Yahoo! Sports, and NASCAR.com for the information, statistics and quotes used in this piece.