Splitter to Spoiler: Johnson makes more history in anticlimactic Dover finish

Jimmie Johnson adds to his legacy, NASCAR needs to reconsider overtime line and Daniel Suarez posts another career-high result

Matthew OHaren—USA Today Sports
Jimmie Johnson celebrates in victory lane after winning the AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway.

It’s becoming easier to name the records Jimmie Johnson hasn’t broken than the ones he has. On Sunday in Dover, he joined two more exclusive lists with a come-from-behind victory on the final restart.The win was Johnson’s 83rd, tying him with childhood idol Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time wins list at the Cup level. It was also his 11th win at Dover, topping his own record at the track and grouping him with Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip as the only driver to win 11 or more times at a single track.”This win means a lot to me,” said Johnson in Victory Lane. “When I was growing up in southern California racing dirt bikes I was a big Cale Yarborough fan. … It was a huge honor to tie him with three consecutive championships a few years back, and then to be here at 83 wins and a day where things played out in such an awkward and weird fashion, I’m just very happy that we’ve got it done.”The “awkward and weird fashion” that Johnson alluded to was a restart at the end of the race that saw him pass Kyle Larson for the win. Despite a massive crash in the back of the field, Johnson and the leaders had already passed the overtime line to nullify any green-white-checkered finish.We’ll get to that later, though. Any questions about the validity of his win were emphatically answered by Johnson following the race.”I did everything I could to beat him, laid back, went forward,” Johnson said. “I laid back early, went forward late. He jumped — he’s the leader, he’s supposed to jump first. I just made sure I didn’t jump before him. But when it mattered, I was actually ahead of him by a couple inches.”They can protest all they want. I got the trophy. I did everything I could to beat him, and I did it.”Much like Austin Dillon’s win the previous week when Johnson ran out of gas, it all comes down to being at the right place at the right time. Johnson remained in the top five most of the afternoon, passed Larson on the final lap and crossed the overtime line in first place.Thirty eight other drivers were unable to accomplish that feat. Larson, who led 241 of the 406 laps, wasn’t in the group that believes Johnson just lucked into win No. 83 on Sunday.”Jimmie is the best of our time, probably the best of all time,” Larson said. “He just has a lot more experience than I do out on the front row late in races and executed a lot better than I did. I’ve got to get better at that and maybe get some more wins.”Hitting restart on overtime rules?NASCAR has tried nearly everything to make the end of races exciting. Most fans don’t wants to see a driver win under caution. Most fans don’t want to see cars crashing in the back of the field as a driver claims the checkered flag.Nobody — and I mean nobody — wants to see what happened on Sunday in Dover.After one of the most exhilarating races of the season at the Monster Mile, Johnson won a race that would have been restarted in regulation essentially under caution. Granted, he won the race under the rules, but several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., questioned whether the overtime line should remain in place.”I kind of helped come up with that idea, so this is going to be kind of strange,” Earnhardt explained in a post-race Periscope, “but I think they should get rid of the overtime line at all the racetracks except for Daytona and Talladega.”I have to side with Earnhardt on all accounts here. It is extremely strange that he suddenly wants to nullify a rule that he helped create, but it’s also not working. Well, except for at Daytona and Talladega, where it is actually a safety precaution for restrictor-plate tracks that would otherwise see multiple huge crashes if forced to restart several times.Had a crash occurred during the final lap of the race in regulation, a caution would have taken place and a restart would have ensued. Instead, Johnson passed the start-finish line with a caution and checkered flag waving for his 11th win at Dover. That’s obviously far from ideal.”I think we should race it out everywhere,” Earnhardt said. “And no overtime line, just keep on doing green-white-checkereds until you get it right everywhere. And then at Daytona and Talladega, you probably can do something different.”Look, Talladega and Daytona are completely different beasts. But the maximum speed at a track like Dover is less than 160 mph, not the 200-plus mph that makes superspeedways so dangerous. Suffice to say, there’s no need for an overtime line at short or intermediate tracks. Let them race for the checkered flag, it’s that simple.Daniel Suarez es en fuegoNASCAR’s first full-time Mexican-born driver is no fluke.Coming off an Xfinity Series championship in his second full season at that level, Daniel Suarez was unexpectedly moved up to the No. 19 car when Carl Edwards retired before the season. Despite a slow start that saw him finish 20th or worse in the first three races, Suarez posted two top-10 finishes at Phoenix and California before a quiet April.Since Talladega, Suarez has turned into a well-oiled machine behind the wheel in the last month.The rookie grabbed his third seventh-place finish in Kansas before racing his way into the All-Star Race during the Monster Energy Open. He then survived his first 600-mile race in the Coca-Cola 600 and finished just outside of the top 10 in 11th place.His weekend in Dover, however, was his best of the entire season. Suarez posted a career-high third-best time in qualifying before putting together a career-high sixth-place result on Sunday after dodging the carnage on the final lap.Suarez is still around 20 points outside of a spot in the playoffs, but has clearly turned a corner at the halfway point in the regular season. He also has the backing of Joe Gibbs Racing, a team that despite its struggles this year can turn it on at any point and run roughshod on NASCAR.Despite being behind fellow Toyota driver Erik Jones in the overall standings, he’s ahead of him in the Rookie of the Year race thanks to slightly more consistent finishes. And with the recent driving of Ty Dillon for Germain Racing, this battle could be one that’s fought all the way into Homestead.