Four-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson added to his already impressive racing resume by winning the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream charity dirt Late Model race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Johnson led all 30 laps at the half-mile dirt oval, but endured a serious challenge from Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer throughout much of the event.
"It's been a steep learning curve, for sure, but it's been a lot of fun to do," said Johnson, who made his Prelude and dirt Late Model debut in 2008. "We tested a couple of times last year, and I think it screwed me up. I just came here cold turkey and tried to go off of my memory, and it worked. The team knew what they wanted to do with the car through the course of the night with the setup, and Clint (Bowyer) was working with us and it just got better and better."
Bowyer, who owns the car Johnson used to win the Prelude to the Dream, finished .683 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot. Carl Edwards, Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.
"You know, it's cool to come home one-two," Bowyer said. "A lot of hard work goes into this. This is a lot of fun, but let me tell you, my guys at the shop work their butts off. So, I'm very proud they were able to come and enjoy this night, to see Jimmie win. Me and Kyle, we were battling it out. He doored me down there, and I wasn't going to let him get away with it. I was going to pass him one way or another. It's really cool to be able to have Jimmie in the car. He's a four-time champion for a reason, and that proves it right there."
"This race has gotten competitive enough where I don't want to own a car," Johnson added. "I want to keep driving other people's stuff. People are testing and working really hard to come up here and run well."
Eldora Speedway owner and two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, who won the past two Prelude to the Dreams, was impressed with Johnson's maturation as a dirt Late Model driver.
"Well, I'm convinced he can drive anything," Stewart said. "I think if we got him a ride in the space shuttle, he could do it, no worries. I mean, we saw it last year. When I followed him in the heat races, I was like this guy has picked this up really, really fast. So it doesn't surprise me at all. But it's cool to have a guy who hasn't won here before. He had to do it the hard way. He had some good guys behind him. It's hard to fight them off. It's hard when you're leading because you never know where to go on a dirt track because the conditions change. He got rolling around the top pretty good tonight, like a veteran."
The Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream was presented live to the entire nation on HBO Pay-Per-View(r) with net proceeds from the telecast supporting four of the nation's top children's hospitals:
• Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis: www.RileyChildrensHospital.com
• Cincinnati Children's: www.CincinnatiChildrens.org
• Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.: www.LevineChildrensHospital.org
• St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.: www.StJude.org
The race was a team event with the field broken up into four groups, each representing a children's hospital:
• Team Riley: Bowyer (captain), Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace and Ron Capps.
• Team Cincinnati: Kasey Kahne (captain), Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott and Cruz Pedregon.
The finishing positions of the top-five drivers from each team were added together with the lowest team score winning 45 percent of the net money raised. Johnson's win, coupled with Busch's fourth-place effort, helped Team Levine score a victory with 45 total points.
Team St. Jude finished second with 48 points, while Team Cincinnati (49 points) and Team Riley (71 points) finished third and fourth, respectively. As a result, St. Jude will receive 25 percent of the net money raised, and Team Cincinnati and Team Riley will each receive 15 percent of the net money raised.
ROSSBURG, Ohio - Results Wednesday of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream Dirt Late Model event June 9 at the half-mile Eldora Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (1) Jimmie Johnson, 302. (4) Clint Bowyer, 303. (17) Carl Edwards, 304. (2) Kyle Busch, 305. (24) Denny Hamlin, 306. (16) Tony Stewart, 307. (3) Dave Blaney, 308. (6) Kasey Kahne, 309. (5) Ken Schrader, 3010. (9) Bill Elliott, 3011. (11) A.J. Allmendinger, 3012. (19) Bobby Labonte, 3013. (18) Joey Logano, 3014. (13) Aric Almirola, 3015. (21) Marcos Ambrose, 3016. (10) Ryan Newman, 3917. (22) Ray Evernham, 3018. (20) Matt Kenseth, 3019. (15) Ricky Carmichael, 3020. (27) Ron Capps, 3021. (12) David Reutimann, 2722. (14) Jeff Gordon, 2723. (25) Travis Pastrana, 2724. (26) Tony Kanaan, 27,25 (7) Cruz Pedregon, 21, Mechanical26. (8) Justin Allgaier, 21, Mechanical27. (23) Kenny Wallace, 9, Mechanical
Race StatisticsWinner's average speed: 27.626 mphTime of race: 32:34.651Margin of victory: .638 of a secondLead changes: NoneLap leaders: Johnson 1-30