DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson became the first driver in 31 years to sweep Daytona International Speedway, accomplishing the feat with a dominating run Saturday night for his fourth Sprint Cup win of the season.
The Daytona 500 winner is the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982, and the fifth overall, to win both races in a season at Daytona.
‘‘I don’t think I made a bad move tonight. I’m pretty proud of that,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘Gosh, growing up in Southern California and watching Bobby Allison . . . to do anything Bobby has done is pretty special.’’
The five-time NASCAR champion was the leader on the restart for a two-lap sprint to the finish in overtime Saturday night. He held off Kevin Harvick on the restart, and then pulled out front to a sizeable lead. Tony Stewart moved into second and may have been timing his attempt to make a pass for the lead when a caution in the middle of the pack froze the field.
‘‘We knew it was coming,’’ Johnson said of the late accident. ‘‘Getting down to the end of these things, we knew it was going to get exciting.’’
Stewart was second, followed by Kevin Harvick in a Chevrolet sweep. Both thought Johnson’s fast car, once able to get out front, was untouchable. He led 94 of the 161 laps.
‘‘These things are such a crapshoot — all 43 guys have a shot at winning the race,’’ Stewart said. ‘‘They definitely had a fast car. I mean, they had a fast car at the 500, they had a fast car here, so it makes sense.’’
Harvick thought the outcome would have been different if anyone had been able to get a push past Johnson.
‘‘I think we could have done the same thing in clean air,’’ Harvick said. ‘‘I think the front car is in a lot better control.’’
Clint Bowyer was fourth and team co-owner Michael Waltrip fifth in a pair of Toyotas. Then came Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Chevrolets took six of the top eight spots and seven of the top 10. Casey Mears was ninth, followed by Ryan Newman.
The race was stopped for almost nine minutes for a six-car accident with 11 laps remaining that included another vicious hit for Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin’s car inexplicably turned right and spun hard into the frontstretch wall. It turned back into traffic and Hamlin was tagged hard by AJ Allmendinger in a hit that caused his car to lift off the ground.
Both he and Allmendinger had to collect themselves after climbing from their wrecked cars, but both were evaluated and released from the infield care center. Hamlin missed four races this season with a compression fracture in a vertebra in his back, and took a hard hit last Sunday at Kentucky.
Also involved in the late accident with Hamlin and Allmendinger were Matt Kenseth, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and Jeff Gordon.
The race resumed with seven laps remaining and Johnson leading teammate Kasey Kahne. Johnson then made a strange move to the high line to block Marcos Ambrose and it might have cost him the race as it put Kahne out front in the bottom lane of traffic.