Johnson reels in Gordon to win fourth at Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS — Jimmie Johnson didn't need luck in Las Vegas — he was just that good when it counted in Sunday's Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A week after parlaying a lucky break on pit road at Fontana, Calif., into his first win of the season, Johnson pulled away to beat Kevin Harvick by 1.874 seconds at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson's 49th career victory leaves him alone in 12th place on the Cup Series wins list, one behind Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson.
Shelby American Results
Pos - Driver - Make
1 - Jimmie Johnson - Chevrolet
2 - Kevin Harvick - Chevrolet
3 - Jeff Gordon - Chevrolet
4 - Mark Martin - Chevrolet
5 - Matt Kenseth - Ford
"No luck involved in that one," crew chief Chad Knaus radioed to Johnson after he crossed the finish line at the end of the 400-mile event.
Well, not much, anyway. Johnson took four tires under caution on his final pit stop on Lap 230 of 267. Third-place finisher Jeff Gordon, who came to the pits as the leader, took two tires, and that decision — on which both Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte agreed — gave Johnson the winning edge.
On Lap 234 Gordon, who led a race-high 219 laps, restarted second inside Clint Bowyer, who did not pit, with Johnson fourth on the outside of Harvick in third. Gordon and Johnson surged into the top two positions and rapidly pulled away.
"It was just a matter of time," said Gordon, who watched helplessly on Lap 251 as Johnson dived below him in Turn 3 and wrestled the top position from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Harvick, who also took two tires on the final stop, passed Gordon for second on Lap 264.
Hendrick driver Mark Martin finished fourth and Matt Kenseth was fifth. Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10.
"We certainly showed them that we were here," Gordon said. "I think that you're going to see a lot more out of us this year. It is disappointing. You can't even have one little blip with that No. 48 team — they are so strong.
"You give them four tires like that against your two, and I knew we were just a sitting duck. I raced him as hard as I could as long as I could."
The two-tire decision weighed heavily on Gordon.
"Well, you know, if we won the race we'd look like geniuses, Steve would have. The fact that we lost the race, now Chad looks like a genius. That's how it goes sometimes. When you're leading, that's the toughest position to be in, to make that call.
"You know, I felt like we needed to come in and get some tires, but I felt like two tires was the right call, too. We just needed the 48 to take two. They did the opposite of us. That won the race for them."
On equal tires, Johnson had chased Gordon throughout the afternoon but without success. When rookie Kevin Conway slammed the Turn 2 wall on Lap 228 to bring out the seventh and final caution of the race, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet was more than a second behind the No. 24 of his teammate.
"Man, I did all I could for the three runs before that, and I had nothing for him," Johnson said. "I could get close [and] then couldn't get the pass pulled off. We had a great race car all day long. I think [Gordon] really showed the strength of the Hendrick cars when Jeff and I checked out from everyone.
"In the end, we had a car that was right on that last run."
Harvick drove through the field after scraping the wall during Friday's first practice session and qualifying 34th.
"I just have to thank all my guys — they did a great job this weekend after crashing into the wall there at the beginning of practice and putting us behind for the start of the weekend," said Harvick, who retained the series points lead by 47 on Bowyer, his Richard Childress Racing teammate.
"We had a good enough car to come through the field, just came up a little bit short again this week. But just a good day for us. Led a lap and did what we had to do."