Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Johnson Perfect Conductor for Generation-6 'Train'; as They Learn about New Car, Drivers Forced to Play Follow-the-Leader

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Johnson Perfect Conductor for Generation-6 'Train'; as They Learn about New Car, Drivers Forced to Play Follow-the-Leader

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Whether it was on purpose or not, Jimmie Johnson described the racing during Sunday's Daytona 500 as a "train."

It was difficult to find anyone at Daytona International Speedway to disagree.

NASCAR's Generation-6 racer, designed to bring back manufacturer identity, created a mile-long conga line in the high line for most of the race. Anyone who tried to go low got shuffled to the back of the pack.

So everyone played follow-the-leader, and it was like watching a train.

Johnson put himself at the right place at the right time when he was inches ahead of Brad Keselowski when the caution flag waved for debris. That gave Johnson the lane choice for the restart, and he picked the top. From there, he easily pulled away during the final six laps for his second 500 victory in eight years.

"Yeah, everybody was just playing the odds," Johnson said. "The majority of the competitors wanted to run the top. The draft really works in numbers. There's more there than the bottom. With the side drafting being as effective right now, you could really choke down the bottom lane and pin a guy against the line and slow him down and then get away and have that long line of cars to surge you past.

"The game's changed a little bit. It used to be defend the bottom. Now it's defend the top. "

Fans hated the two-car tandems from the past two years. And while they embraced the new look, it didn't produce a lot of side-by-side racing.

In 2011, there were 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers. On Sunday, there were only 28 lead changes among 14 drivers - and none in the final 10 laps.

"I had a lot of confidence in the last two laps leading this train," Johnson said.

After the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race a week earlier, Kyle Busch said drivers don't like single-file racing. Kasey Kahne said the same thing after being swept into a nine-car crash on the 34th lap. …

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