Johnson talking like it's all wrapped up

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- If it was fireworks that 115,000 race fans came to Bristol Motor Speedway to see on Sunday, they went home bitterly disappointed after a relatively tame NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500.

Jimmie Johnson, in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, won the race that had been touted as an all-out wreckfest after the antics at Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

But cooler heads prevailed as there was only one multi-car accident -- a 13-car crash with 157 laps to go.

Johnson, however, showed once again why he is quite simply the most talented stock car driver on the circuit with his 50th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, but his first at Bristol.

STEWART SECOND

Tony Stewart, by taking just two tires on the final pit stop with 10 laps to go, finished second in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Kurt Busch, who led a race-high 278 laps, finished third in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.

Both he and Stewart, however, were no match for the four-time defending Sprint Cup champion after the No. 48 team decided to take four new tires on their final stop.

While Johnson came out of that stop behind five other cars, including both Stewart and Busch, he made short work of getting to the front.

"I thought we were in trouble there on the final restart," Johnson said. "But those four tires made all the difference."

There has been a lot of talk in the series about how Johnson's dominance over the past four seasons is hurting the series.

And Busch talked on Sunday about the futility of trying to beat the No. 48 team.

"Once we got behind him, it was over," Busch said. "He is so hard to beat and I thought we had a real chance, and now its gone because next week at Martinsville he's going to be strong again."

His frustration was clear when, late in the race, he expressed dismay on his in-car radio about the luck that seems to follow the No. 48 team around.

"You know, there are 42 other cars (that need some luck, too)," he said.

Johnson seemed to agree that he does get a lot of lucky breaks, but that it is plain hard work that makes those break happen.

"We have worked hard for this," he said. "I'm proud that (Busch) sees me that way. When I was growing up everybody felt that way about the No. 3 (Dale Earnhardt) and then later the No 24. (Jeff Gordon). So, to be in that kind of company I think is a real compliment."

Johnson sounded positively cocky about a fifth consecutive championship this year. And although it's early in the season, the No. 48 team already has three wins.

"We have a lot of racing left," Johnson said. "But there is no doubt that when we start winning at tracks where we aren't supposed to (like Bristol), the boys better look out."

If there is a ray of hope for the rest of the Sprint Cup grid it is that starting at Martinsville next week NASCAR has mandated that the rear wing will be removed and replaced with a spoiler.

Busch thinks this may be just the break everyone needs to play catch-up.

"Maybe the change will slow them down," he said. "They seem to have mastered the wing deal."

Points leader Kevin Harvick had his worst outing of the season so far nursing an ill-handling No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet home in 11th place leaving him just one point ahead of Matt Kenseth and 14 ahead of Johnson.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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