Four Wide, Two Cars Deep, Johnson, with Help from Teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Won Spring 2011 Talladega Race by a NASCAR Record Two One Thousandths of a Second
Talladega, Ala. (Oct. 2, 2020) – While Sunday’s YellaWood 500 will mark the end of the Jimmie Johnson era at Talladega Superspeedway, his legend at the 2.66-mile iconic venue will live on forever as a result of the track’s spring race of 2011.
Johnson, who will retire from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing at the end of the 2020 season, was running fifth coming off of turn four on the final lap of that memorable April afternoon. With a huge push from teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., however, Johnson nudged his way down low to the inside of teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon through the tri-oval, squeezed his way past, then inched ahead of Clint Bowyer to win by a NASCAR record two one thousandths of a second.
The finish showcased a pack of eight cars (including Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle who made a late run) spread out nearly four-wide across the track, all crossing the finish line in a blink of an eye. It took video replays to conclude that Johnson had nipped Bowyer, who was being pushed in the draft by teammate Kevin Harvick, by 0.002 seconds, matching the closest margin of victory since NASCAR began using electronic timing.
“When you’re four wide coming across the finish line, that’s a pretty good race,” said Johnson afterwards. “There was just so much going on at the end of that thing coming to the stripe. They (Gordon/Martin & Bowyer/Harvick) were worried about racing each other and left the bottom open, and we had momentum on our side and off we went. We were just the lucky guy at the end of with a good run. We had some big ‘mo’ on our side.”
Fans in attendance Sunday for the YellaWood 500, which gets a 1 p.m. CDT start, will get the opportunity to see up-close one of Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, which will be on display on the frontstretch concourse at the O.V. Hill grandstand/tower. It’s the actual machine that took Johnson to Gatorade Victory Lane in the 2006 DAYTONA 500. In addition, the display will host a selfie station with #ONEFINALTIME large foam letters by the car. Fans in attendance will also be treated to a tribute video to Johnson at various times on the track’s large infield video boards prior to the start of the race.
Johnson, who has 13 top-10 finishes at Talladega, including three runnerup efforts, barely missed out on this year’s Cup Series playoffs, but a win at Talladega would mean ease the pain. Johnson’s attitude about the high banks of Talladega have remained the same since he made his Cup Series debut at the track in 2002.
“You just can’t predict what’s going to happen. That’s the wild thing about Talladega,” said Johnson whose other victory at Talladega came in ’06 when he held off Tony Stewart. “You don’t mind crashing if there’s five to go (if you aren’t in the championship battle); it’s just such a risk versus reward management exercise because if you don’t have much to lose, you can try to race all day long and try to stay at the head of the pack and out of trouble, But you cycle to the middle of the field at some point; that’s inevitable. And if you cycle into the middle of the field at the wrong time and you’re in the big one, then you’re kicking yourself for racing. So, it’s a tough race to figure out what to do. I’ve tried so many different strategies at this track and the outcome has been the same that you just really can’t predict it.”
With not much to lose, expect Johnson to be a force Sunday for win No. 3.
- Sat, Oct. 3 – Chevy Silverado 250 at TALLADEGA NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at 12:00 p.m. CDT (FS1, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 94 laps
- Sat, Oct. 3 – Ag-Pro 300 At TALLADEGA NASCAR Xfinity Series at 3:30 p.m. CDT (NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 113 laps
- Sun, Oct. 4 – YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series at 1:00 p.m. CDT (NBC, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 188 laps