How the race was won
Johnson It came down to Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, who combined to lead 256 of the race's 325 laps. Stewart was first on a restart with about 10 to go, while Johnson had to hold-off Juan Pablo Montoya and then pass Matt Kenseth before chasing Stewart down. Johnson did run Stewart down quickly, squeezed him a little after making the pass and drove on to victory.
Story of the race
Johnson's continuing dominance.
A nice, clean race.
Give 'em credit
Johnson and the 48 team. Again. They're just quite good, aren't they? And sure, Johnson did block Stewart a bit, but even Stewart admits that probably wouldn't have changed the outcome.
Stewart. Daytona aside, His off-days have resulted in top-10s. Sunday was an on-day. And a good one, at that.
Juan Pablo Montoya. He's starting to justify the hype early – not to mention a willingness to provide, shall we say, colorful quotes. And check out his teammates Reed Sorenson and David Stremme also making some noise.
Matt Kenseth. Carrying the Roush (and Ford) banner, though Carl Edwards also had a solid day.
Finally, Mark Martin. Not for his fourth top-10 of the year, but for (finally) sticking to his guns and starting to walk away on his terms. Hopefully he won't regret it.
What were they thinking?
Greg Biffle and/or his spotter. This race might have been wreck-free if Biffle's No. 16 hadn't started a four-car imbroglio that never should have happened.
Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 crew. Terrific comeback to finish 12th, but losing a lap while making repairs under caution cost Gordon a shot at the win.
Better luck next time
Busch Kyle Busch. For both Saturday and Sunday. He still could/should make the Chase, but his season also could spiral out of control (and his team also deserves some blame for the first wheel issue).
Brian Vickers. Who knows if he (and David Reutimann and Kasey Kahne) would have finished well if not for the wreck, but Vickers did lead the first laps for Toyota before being taken out while running mid-pack.
Gordon. Had the initial tire problem that caused the extended pit stops never happened, Gordon might have won this race.
By the way …
Dale Jarrett got hit with two consecutive pit road speeding penalties, possibly accounting for the only times this season he has been accused of driving too fast.
Grading the race
This race was solid with early green flag runs that saw drivers move around the track and the field. It was a clean event that almost had no wrecks (and a less-than-frustrating number of debris cautions) but plenty of compelling comebacks and storylines. And the finish was terrific. Drives were right to be excited to hit Atlanta after the Vegas debacle. This race was the best of this young season – by a wide margin. Grade: A-
From the source
Jimmie Johnson: "Right now it's easy to feel good about things and there's no doubt that the championship is what's on our minds."
Tony Stewart: "Nobody ever likes to hit the wall. That's pretty much a no-brainer. I wish [Johnson would] have given me a little more room."