200 wins. Now there’s a lifetime achievement to be proud of. But in typical Rick Hendrick fashion, while the mile stone is great, he is already looking towards the next one.
”That guy’s something,” Johnson said about the owner. ”He said, `We won 200. Let’s get 250.”
Jimmie Johnson could not have been more proud as he beamed his trademark smile around everywhere after the race. Johnson presented his owner with a helmet signed by the 15 drivers who ran for Hendrick since he began his operation. ”Thanks, buddy,” Rick Hendrick said with a smile. ”This will definitely be the centerpiece of the mancave.”
The win brings Johnson’s personal total up to 56 wins, and he is the 8th different winner out of 11 races so far this season.
Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart each did their best trying to postpone the 200th victory celebration but we’re simply unable to run down Johnson in the late stages of the race.
“I was trying to postpone [No. 200] for another week by trying to get to Jimmie, but I just couldn’t do it,” said Tony Stewart. “The closer I got to him, the tighter I got. That was one of the best runs we’d had, but still I wasn’t strong enough.
“He had plenty of car left. He was just riding, trying to save fuel. They won it in dominating fashion. To win a 200th race, you don’t want to back into it. They dominated and took it the way they should.”
“I think it’s phenomenal, especially with the competition over here getting tougher and tougher,” said Stewart, who lost second position to Hamlin when his car temporarily lost fuel pressure coming to the final restart. “It’s getting harder and harder to win these races.
“Especially for it to happen in the Southern 500 — it’s such a historic race. It’s a pretty cool milestone.”
When asked how he felt about bringing home a third place finish at a track where he still has yet to mark a W in the win column, Stewart said he was happy with the way things worked out for him and his #14 Office Depot team.
“You know, considering the hurdles of the day, I’m pretty happy with a third-place run,” Stewart said.
“We kind of struggled there the first half of the race,” Stewart said. “We fought loose in [Turn] 1 and 2, really tight in 3 and 4. So it’s really hard to fix the balance of the race car when it’s doing two different things on two different ends.
“Really proud of [crew chief] Steve Addington. He just kept throwing things at it to try to get a direction.”
“It’s why we won a championship last year,” he said. “We never give up.”
Johnson was a bit worried when he saw the grille of the 14 car in his rear view mirror.
“I still was really nervous with the 14 behind me,” Johnson said. “He’s been the guy week after week that can go the distance. I was trying to pace myself off of him. It worked out.”
It was fuel pressure however that, in the end, cost Stewart the position on the track and the chance to really give Jimmie a run for his money.
“We ran out of fuel coming off of [Turn] 4,” Stewart said. “It didn’t run all the way out of fuel, but it laid down enough that it didn’t run a 100 percent going down into Turn 1. Once we got into 1, we got the fuel to the pickup, and we just lost our spot doing it.”