CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It started Thursday with the pole award and ended Sunday night in Victory Lane. Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Lowes team culminated a dominating weekend by winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The win was his first this season, as many followers wondered when, not if it would happen.
“It’s great to win, but believe me, and I promise you, all the hype and all the concern and worry, that was elsewhere. That wasn’t in my head,” Johnson told the media following his win.
Johnson blew past Matt Kenseth with only nine laps remaining in the marathon 600-mile race and never looked back. Kevin Harvick, who led 100 laps, was second, followed by Kenseth, then Carl Edwards and All-Star winner Jamie McMurray to round out the top five.
The other two notable stories were centered around Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon.
Busch’s attempt at the double — Indy 500 and Coke 600 — ended with 129 laps remaining when his engine blew.
Busch did manage a strong sixth place finish at Indy, and become only the second racer ever — Tony Stewart was first — to attempt the 1,100 miles in one day.
After leaving practice early Saturday with back spasms, Jeff Gordon enlisted Regan Smith to be on stand-by for the grueling 600 mile race.
But the 42-year old Gordon showed his strength and determination Saturday night by completing all 400 laps and finish a most respectful seventh, his ninth top-10 finish in 12 events this season.
In so doing, Gordon maintained his series points lead by 11 over second-place Kenseth.
Danica Patrick, who qualified fourth, had to retire early with a blown engine as well, 119 laps from the end. Dale Earnhardt Jr., hoping to finally win one before his hometown Jr. Nation, led 13 laps late in the race before he, too, had engine problems and faded, finishing 19th.
For more images from the Coca-Cola race weekend visit www.NorthBeachPhotos.smugmug.com.