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Jimmie Johnson Wins at Talladega in a Wild 8 Man Last Lap Shootout

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IApril 17, 2011

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 17:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 17, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The checkered flag has just waved on the Aaron's 499 from Talladega Super Speedway. It was the eighth race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jimmie JohnsonΒ was the winner, as he crossed the finish line ahead of Clint Bowyer by .002 seconds.

It ties for the closest finish in NASCAR history.

The race at Talladega saw nothing but two-by-two racing all day long. Teammates continuously hooked up with each other all day long to form two-car freight trains.

The Hendrick and Childress teams seemed to have it figured out the best. During the 188-lap race, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin never once left each others bumpers, while it was the same story for Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

The Childress teams also worked well together, with Bowyer and Jeff Burton working much of the race together. Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard also found success running with their teammates.

The last two laps was an eight-car battle between the four Hendrick cars, Bowyer and Harvick from Childress Racing, and Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle from Roush Racing.

Coming to the white flag, Martin shoved Gordon to the front of the field ahead of the Childress duo. Then for the entire final lap, those four cars raced side by side, while the other two Hendrick cars and Roush team lingered right behind them.

Coming out of turn four, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. ducked to the inside of teammates Gordon and Martin, while Bowyer and Harvick held the outside.

As they gained, Martin briefly considered dropping down to the bottom to block his teammates to help Gordon, but he lost his momentum and had to left off the gas, briefly separating himself from Gordon's bumper.

This allowed Johnson to nose ahead of the field, all while Edwards and Biffle made a run on the outside to make it four-wide coming to the start/finish line.

When all the smoke cleared, Johnson edged Bowyer by .002 seconds. Gordon finished third, with Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick rounding out the top five. Edwards, Biffle and Martin rounded out the eight-man battle. David Gilliland and Joey Logano completed the unofficial top 10.

The race was slowed by six caution flags. The first caution came out on lap 28, when Kurt Busch got into the back of his drafting partner, Landon Cassill. Cassill then got into Brian Vickers, who slammed the outside wall.

The second caution came out at lap 90 and was the biggest of the day. It was a five-car pileup. Once again, Kurt Busch got into the back of his drafting partner. This time it was his teammate, Brad Keselowski, he got in to.

Keselowski hit the outside wall, and as a result, the cars of David Ragan, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne and Marcos Ambrose were all collected and forced to the garage, ending their chances of winning.

The only other significant yellow flag was waved for Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. Busch, while running in the top 10 got hit from behind by his teammate, Joey Logano. The contact sent Busch down the track and into Kenseth's car.

Busch bounced off ofΒ the No. 17 and into the wall. Kenseth, meanwhile, had his car torn up from the contact with Busch. Both drivers were finished for the day.

While the finish was dramatic, it was looking for a time, like it also could have been hugely surprising. With four laps remaining, the underfunded car of Dave Blaney was out front leading the race. After surrendering the lead to the Childress duo, Blaney got spun around. Once again, it was Kurt Busch who got into the back of someone, sending them spinning.

Blaney ultimately lost the draft after saving his car and had to settle for a disappointing 27th place finish, the final car on the lead lap.

In the end, the only thing that anyone will remember about this race was the wild eight man dash to the checkered flag. It was one of those finishes that you will remember for a long time, as any of the eight drivers could have easily wound up in victory lane.

In the end, Johnson scored his first win of the season and jumped up to second in the point standings. In a sign of appreciation, after collecting the checkered flag and doing his victory burnout, Johnson presented teammate, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with the flag as a thank you for pushing him to the win.

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