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Jimmie Johnson wins Coke Zero 400, takes first Daytona sweep in 31 years

The SportsXchange

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson did everything he could during the final 15 laps to keep himself in front of the pack, including diving back and forth between the bottom and high lane to hold on to the lead through four wrecks to win the Coke Zero 400 Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

The dramatic victory allowed Johnson to become the first driver to win both the Daytona 500 and the 400 in the same year since Bobby Allison in 1982.

Johnson, who led 92 laps, was the leader when the green came out with 28 laps to go. And he was still out front when Denny Hamlin went below the yellow line and suddenly turned right to trigger a six-car accident with 11 laps remaining. The wreck included potential winners Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.

After a brief red flag, the race got the green flag with seven to go.

Johnson decided to take the top lane for the restart as this put Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on his rear bumper. Johnson and Kahne got a great restart and were 1-2 when they dived down.

But a lap later, Johnson saw the high line headed by Marcos Ambrose coming fast so he jumped in front of this pack. But this allowed Kahne to get beside him as they battled for the top spot.

Coming off the fourth turn, Johnson slid a little higher with Ambrose trying to get beside him. The two touched with Ambrose bouncing off into Kahne. The contact sent Kahne head-on into the inside wall to bring out the yellow.

This set up a green-white-checkered flag finish.

Johnson again won the restart, but moments after getting the white flag cars started wrecking behind the front pack. NASCAR decided not to throw the yellow.

But another wreck occurred as the leaders came off turn four with Johnson holding off Tony Stewart to score his fourth win of the season.

Kevin Harvick was third followed by Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip. Sixth through 10th were Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnardt, Jr., Casey Mears and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Danica Patrick and Carl Edwards were among the cars involved in the final wreck of the evening.

The first 100 laps were divided into four segments.

Kyle Busch dominated the first 24 laps as the race became a single-file affair. Then Paul Menard, running third, had an engine blow up on him to severely damage his hopes of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Following the first yellow flag, Jimmie Johnson, who won the Daytona 500 in February, took over the lead as he showed that the lower line was the way to go.

Joey Logano, who had finished in the top 10 in five of the last six races and just moved into the top 10 in the Sprint Cup standings, suffered a blown right front tire on lap 70 to bring out the second caution flag.

"This was a big hit for us in the points," said Logano.

With half of the field pitting before Logano had his problems, the running order changed completely with Denny Hamlin moving to the front.

But it didn't take Johnson long to show that he had one of the strongest cars in the field as he was back up to second behind Jamie McMurray when Martin Truex, Jr., suddenly broke loose on lap 98 collecting Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya in the accident. Kyle Busch also suffered front end damage.

When Busch pitted for repairs, NASCAR penalized him for too many men over pit road dropping him to the rear of the lead-lap cars.

For Truex, Logano and Menard, the chain of events in the first 100 laps cost them dearly in their bid to be part of this year's Chase for the championship.
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