NASCAR plate racing yields another frantic finish

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“We knew it was coming,” Johnson said. “Getting down to the end of these things, we knew it was going to get exciting.”

That excitement can be painful, too.

Hamlin and Allmendinger had to collect themselves after climbing from their wrecked cars. Hamlin missed four races earlier this season with a compression fracture in a vertebra in his lower back, and took a hard hit last Sunday at Kentucky.

“There’s a 50-percent chance you’re going to wreck,” said Kevin Harvick, who finished third. “The odds are 50/50, and we’ve had a lot of good luck on them and we’ve had some bad luck lately on them.”

Several drivers, included Stewart and his teammates, have opted to move to the back of the field early in the restrictor-plate races, hoping to avoid any early wrecks and then make a move toward the front late.

“You go back there to try to give yourself a little bit of a buffer,” Stewart said, acknowledging that some spectators would rather not see the tactical move. “If you’re up there in the mix, if something happens, it’s hard to get away from it when you’re crammed in there. This is a 195-mile-an-hour chess match, and the lap that pays is lap 160.

“A lot is said about guys that lag back like that, but we’re in the most competitive series in the country, and when you’re running in the most competitive series in the country, you have to do what you think is in the best interest of you, your car, your team and your situation to get to the end. And part of winning races is knowing to be where at what times.”

Johnson seems to have that feel as well as anyone in 2013.

The Sprint Cup points leader won his fourth race of the season and etched his name in the Daytona record books.

“That’s amazing, gosh,” Johnson said. “To tie anything that Bobby did is really special.”

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