DOVER, Del. — Jimmie Johnson raced his way to another routine romp at Dover International Speedway.
He followed last week’s victory in the Coca-Cola 600 with another sensational run at Dover, extending his track victory record to nine. Johnson was the class of the field in a race red-flagged for 22 minutes because of a pothole in the concrete track.
Johnson led 272 of 400 laps, and won consecutive races for the 13th time. The six-time Cup champion swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and won races in 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.
“For sure, when you come to Dover, it’s always the 48,” Kenseth said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get ahead of him.”
Good luck. Johnson’s checkered flag celebrations at Dover have seemingly become a rite of the NASCAR season. He became Dover’s career leader in laps led when he hit the 2,802 mark, and again stamped himself as contender for a series-tying seventh championship.
“It’s amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules, different tires,” Johnson said. “This place just fits my style and (crew chief) Chad Knaus’ style.”
His lone regret, that owner Rick Hendrick was not at the track.
Johnson never left any doubt his No. 48 Chevrolet was the car to beat, the only drama coming when the race was stopped 160 laps into the race after Ryan Newman’s car pulled up chunks of the track that kicked back and damaged Jamie McMurray’s car. The race was soon stopped and crews weren’t allowed to work on the cars.
McMurray’s plea for an exception was denied.
More pieces of the track flew up and cracked a window on the pedestrian crossover bridge.
NASCAR officials and safety crews went to work on the potholes and applied a quick-drying concrete mix. Cup races were infamously delayed by potholes at Martinsville in 2004 and the 2010 Daytona 500. McMurray won at Daytona in 2010.
“It started to come back up at the end, but I didn’t think it was a major issue,” Keselowski said. “It was definitely a major issue at first when it happened. I could feel it when I was driving over it, and you knew it was only going to get worse.”
Kevin Harvick might have wished for a longer delay. Harvick’s lead at the red flag evaporated because of a flat tire not long after racing resumed and he fell two laps behind Johnson. Harvick worked his way back into a 17th-place finish.
DETROIT — Helio Castroneves easily won the second Detroit Grand Prix race of the weekend Sunday, finishing 1.6836 seconds ahead of Penske Racing teammate Will Power.
Castroneves’ lead was so large that when he made his final pit stop on Lap 49 he still was ahead when he got back on the track.
The competition got closer after cautions led to restarts with seven and three laps left, but Castroneves could not be caught.
The Brazilian has 29 IndyCar victories, tying Rick Mears for 11th on the career. Castroneves finished 0.060 seconds behind Ryan Hunter-Reay last week in the Indianapolis 500 in his bid to join Mears as a four-time winner in open-wheel racing’s signature event.
Power won Saturday and played a big part in a sloppy start Sunday.
He was penalized for avoidable contact on the opening lap, failing to turn right and causing Josef Newgarden to hit him from behind to trigger a three-car crash. That led to the first of two cautions within the first ten laps after a false start briefly delayed the race beginning.
Despite a drive-through penalty, Power was able to pull into contention later in the race with aggressive moves.
No one, though, was faster than Castroneves.