LONG POND, Pa. – Jimmie Johnson walked into the media center holding his daughter’s hand, his pregnant wife right behind them. Their second child is due in September, right around the time of the final race before the Chase field is set.
With an automatic berth in NASCAR’s playoffs secured, Johnson has permission to skip the race for the big birth.
“If Chani goes into labor early, I don’t have to worry about Richmond,” Johnson said.
A week after a late penalty denied his chance at a win, Johnson absolutely dominated Sunday at Pocono Raceway, leading 128 of 160 laps for his third victory of the season.
Greg Biffle was second, Earnhardt third, and Dover winner Tony Stewart was fourth, followed by fellow Stewart-Haas Racing driver Ryan Newman.
“I really didn’t have anything for Jimmie,” Biffle said. “Jimmie was in a league of his own.”
Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
“Jimmie’s switched on right now,” crew chief Chad Knaus said.
“He’s as good or better as I’ve ever seen him.”
High praise for the five-time champion.
Even during his championship run, Johnson rarely cruised like he did on the 2½-mile triangle track. The Sprint Cup points leader, Johnson pulled away on both of the last two restarts over the final 10 laps to pull into Victory Lane at Pocono for the first time since he swept both races in 2004.
Johnson was never seriously challenged a week after his run at a possible win at Dover International Speedway was taken away by a penalty off a restart. NASCAR penalized him for jumping leader Juan Pablo Montoya off the restart with 19 laps left, and he finished 17th.
It was a rare misstep for Johnson, but he rebounded just fine at Pocono.
“It would have been very easy to come in here with a chip on your shoulder or a grudge,” Knaus said. “Jimmie is not that kind of guy.”
Johnson pretty much only lost the lead because of pit stop cycles.
Johnson also won the Daytona 500 and at Martinsville Speedway this season. His 63rd career Cup victory helped stretch his points lead to 51 over Carl Edwards.
NATIONWIDE: Trevor Bayne rallied to win the rain-plagued race at Newton, Iowa, becoming just the third series regular to win this season.
Bayne caught pole-sitter Austin Dillon with 11 laps to go and hung on for his second career win and first of 2013.
Dillon was second, followed by Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Kyle Larson in the first Nationwide race of the year without a Sprint Cup driver.
FORMULA ONE: Sebastian Vettel won the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal, surviving an early brush with the wall and leading almost the entire way to extend his lead in the points race.
Fernando Alonso finished second and Lewis Hamilton, the 2012 winner, was third after holding the lead for three of the 70 laps when Vettel made an early pit stop.
The race was marred by a fatal incident, as a worker died after being run over by a crane removing a car from the course after the checkered flag had flown. The man, who wasn’t immediately identified, was helping the recovery vehicle when he dropped his radio, then stumbled and fell into the path of the vehicle while trying to retrieve the radio, according to a Formula One spokesman.
OXFORD PLAINS: Dale Shaw became the first repeat winner of the season in the Pro Late Model division, charging to the front early in the 40-lap feature and leading the rest of the way.
Shaw, of Center Conway, N.H., made a three-wide move to get past Vanna Brackett and Adam Polvinen for the lead. He finished ahead of Turner’s Shawn Martin and Buckfield’s TJ Brackett, the division leader.
Marc Lucas of Harpswell won the 40-lap Pro All Stars Series Modified race. Other feature winners were: Tyson Jordan of Poland, Street Stock; Calvin Rose Jr. of Turner, Mini Stock; and Kyle Treadwell of Auburn, Outlaw Sportsman.