Murto: Johnson’s mistake cost him Dover win

By Craig Murto

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson usually doesn’t shoot himself in the foot, but he certainly cost himself the win last weekend at Dover, Del.

On a late-race restart, Johnson beat leader Juan Pablo Montoya to the starting line by three car lengths. In fact, Johnson’s car was slightly ahead of Montoya’s when they entered the “box,” an area in which the race leader is allowed to start the race.

Some say Montoya did a masterful job of snookering Johnson; hanging back on the start, leaving Johnson out to dry to draw a penalty. That may be. And sometimes NASCAR overlooks the infraction. But it’s difficult to overlook it when you’re three lengths ahead of the leader at the starting line.

But that wasn’t what cost Johnson the race. The fact that Johnson did not back off the gas enough to allow Montoya to retake the position after the restart cost Johnson the penalty of a costly drive down pit road to answer a black flag.

NASCAR always gives teams a chance to give the position back. Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus told Johnson to stay in the lead. Bad choice. The black flag flew and the best car in the race wound up 17th. They can whine and cry all they want, but they jumped the start and got caught.

Incredibly that opened the door for Tony Stewart, who seemed to come out of nowhere as he hadn’t run near the front all day. He passed Montoya with a handful of laps to go and charged to his first win of the year, which also was his first top-five finish of the season.

Simon Pagenaud scored his first IndyCar win in race No. 2 of the IndyCar Dual at Belle Isle in Detroit. Pagenaud’s win was also the first win for Sam Schmidt Racing.

In Saturday’s race No. 1 of the Dual, England’s Mike Conway scored the win for Dale Coyne Racing after first introducing himself to the team on Friday. Conway — who will not compete on ovals after a horrific crash at Indy in 2012 — finished on the podium again Sunday.

The IndyCar series is so competitive right now that for both Saturday and Sunday, the only “big” team on the podium was Andretti Autosport, which scored a second-place finish Saturday with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Penske and Ganassi are still winless this year.

The Rolex Grand Am Series also raced at Belle Isle, with the Daytona Prototype of Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor scoring their second win of the year.

Joey Logano scored his first win for Penske in the Nationwide race at Dover. It was his third Nationwide win in a row at the track. Kyle Busch won the truck race.

ARCA veteran Frank Kimmel is on the verge of making history. Following his win at Elko Speedway in Minnesota over the weekend, his total of 78 ARCA wins are one shy of tying ARCA legend Iggy Katona for the all-time record. Kimmel will attempt to reach that mark when ARCA rolls into Pocono this weekend.

Jorge Lorenzo took his Yamaha to victory lane in the MotoGP Grand Prix of Italy on the Mugello circuit. Rookie Marc Marquez had the opportunity to become the first rookie to score podium finishes in his first five races, but crashed out while running second with only a few laps remaining.

In AMA road racing, Josh Hayes swept the Superbike class at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Daytona Sportbike events were won by Jake Gagne and Cameron Beaubier, while Corey Alexander swept the Supersport class.

In AMA Motocross action, Ryan Dungey won the second moto and the overall in Blountville, Tenn., after Ryan Villopoto — winner of the first race — crashed in the second event.

All day Saturday, Shenandoah Speedway will host motocross racing. The oval will be closed. I’d recommend arriving before noon to enjoy as much racing as possible.

Summit Point will host the SCCA Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series on Saturday and Sunday. The track offers camping, so if the weather’s nice it may be the perfect opportunity to enjoy a weekend away without traveling too far. Winchester Speedway will host a 30-lap Super Late Model feature Saturday night, so an ideal trip would be to set up camp at Summit Point for the races and travel to Winchester on Saturday night, then heading back to your campsite. Nothing beats waking up to the sound of racecars when they hit the track for their morning practice.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.