- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

DOVER, Del. | Jimmie Johnson nosed past Tony Stewart with two laps left to win the Sprint Cup Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Johnson pushed Stewart in the final few laps Sunday and finally caught him with an outside pass. Johnson won his second race of the season and got his fourth career Cup victory at Dover.

“We just couldn’t hold off Jimmie,” Stewart said. “He was like a freight train coming.”

Johnson dominated most of the race and led 298 laps after leading only 12 laps combined in the past six races. The three-time defending Cup champion had a slow pit stop with 36 laps left that dropped him from the lead. With crew chief Chad Knaus telling Johnson he would catch Stewart, Johnson pulled out his 42nd career win.

“I just had to go,” Johnson said. “I had one heck of a race with Tony. That’s how racing’s supposed to be done.”

He was followed by Stewart, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th in his first race with crew chief Lance McGrew.

Stewart passed Jeff Gordon for the Cup points lead and became the first owner/driver to sit atop the standings since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. Gordon ran two laps down in his backup car most of the race and finished 26th.

Johnson appeared to have the race under control and was never really challenged most of the 400-mile race. When he came in for a four-tire pit stop with 36 laps, a faulty exchange by his crew dropped him into ninth.

One by one, he picked off the drivers in front of him. He charged past Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch until only Biffle and Stewart were ahead of the No. 48 Chevrolet with 10 laps left. Johnson passed Biffle, and that set up the frantic finish that rivaled Talladega for the most dramatic ending this season.

“I don’t know how it gets much more exciting than that,” Stewart said.

Earnhardt posted his best finish since Talladega in his first race without longtime crew chief Tony Eury Jr. Hendrick Motorsports made the decision to give McGrew a shot at calling the race a week earlier than expected. He ran in the top 10 for a portion of the first half of the race and has to hope this kind of finish can start to turn his season around.

“One of the things I liked about Lance is I felt like I was in the pit box with him all day, and I felt like he was riding with me all day,” Earnhardt said. “That was a good feeling. Hopefully we can keep that up.”

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