DOVER, Del. — Apparently the only drivers who can match Jimmie Johnson at Dover International Speedway are those in the Hall of Fame.
Johnson raced his way into the track’s history books Sunday with his seventh win on the concrete, matching the mark held by Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.
No active driver owns the track like the five-time Sprint Cup champion. Johnson led 289 of the 400 laps and looked every bit like the driver who swept the two Cup races at Dover in 2002 and 2009. Johnson last won at Dover on Sept. 26, 2010. He also won the September 2005 race.
“God, I love this place,” Johnson said as he took a victory spin.
Then it was off to goof around in Victory Lane. Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and other Hendrick Motorsports crew members wore the wacky afro clown wig — sporting tufts of green, red, yellow and blue — seen in the talking-animal movie, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.”
They had good reason to clown around. Throw in the All-Star race and that’s a sweet four-race winning streak for NASCAR’s top organization.
Johnson won at Darlington Raceway and Kasey Kahne won the Coca Cola 600. Johnson also won the non-points All-Star race during that span as the No. 48 Chevrolet is heating up as Johnson chases a sixth Cup championship.
“I’ve never been one to pay attention to stats,” Johnson said. “I just truthfully never thought I’d be the guy who’d build up any cool stats. Here I am with some pretty cool stats with legends of our sport and guys that I’ve looked up to.”
Johnson won his second race of the season — and first where he celebrated with a rainbow circus wig.
“I’m just proud of this hair,” Johnson said. “The hair brought some speed to the team.”
Petty needed 46 races to win seven times and Allison had 35 races. Johnson got to seven in his 21st start at the track known as the Monster Mile.
Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.
Johnson’s win came about 390 miles after a 13-car accident ended weeks of mostly accident-free races and took out defending Cup champion Tony Stewart. Stewart eventually returned and finished 25th.
Johnson’s only real challenge for a stretch came from teammate Jeff Gordon. The No. 24 was strong enough to lead 60 laps midway through the race and had perhaps the car to beat until a tire issue and an ill-timed debris caution combined to land him in 13th place.
“It’s always more frustrating when you’ve got a car that can win and you show it by going up there and taking the lead,” Gordon said. “We don’t care about finishing top 15 or top 10 right now. That does nothing for us. We need wins.”
Detroit Grand Prix
DETROIT — Scott Dixon won IndyCar’s Detroit Grand Prix on Sunday, a race that was marred by poor track conditions.
A red flag halted the event 45 laps into a race that was scheduled for 90 laps and shortened to 60.
Belle Isle’s 2.07-mile road course, which hadn’t hosted a race since 2008, had chunks of asphalt and concrete missing. Pot holes and grooves that were recently filled with tar became exposed. Crews filled the gaps with epoxy that settled enough for the race to resume after a two-hour delay.
Dixon pulled away after the final restart on lap 55 for his first win of the season, almost 2 seconds in front of teammate Dario Franchitti. Simon Pagenaud finished third, followed by Will Power, who began the race as the IndyCar points leader.
Dixon, a two-time series champion and 28-time winner, earned his first pole Saturday. He took advantage of starting first on a track that doesn’t give many opportunities to pass and led from start to finish. He wasn’t challenged much before the red flag, building a 10-second lead, on a road course that had just nine lead changes combined in 2007 and 2008.