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Jimmie Johnson the star of the party

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By Ngozi Ekeledo

LONG POND, Pa. ( Terry Blount / ESPN.com ) -- The race was titled "Party in the Poconos."

More like the "Jimmie Johnson Party in the Poconos." For everyone else, call it a slumber party.

Johnson was uncatchable, unstoppable, unbeatable. The No. 48 Chevy was the fastest car when the team unloaded off the truck for practice. It was the fastest car all day Sunday.

"That was the best car I've had in a long, long time," Johnson said. "What a race car and engine. I had plenty of horsepower. I could do what I wanted around other cars."

Johnson led 128 of 160 laps. This was JJ against the little drivers who couldn't. And we've seen this show many times before. It didn't take a racing expert to realize Johnson was going to win this race unless he made a mistake.

Last week, he made a mistake. This week, he didn't.

Johnson was probably going to win last weekend at Dover until he beat himself at the end. No restart controversy was going to stop him this time.

Johnson was penalized for jumping the final restart at Dover, beating the leader -- Juan Pablo Montoya -- to the start-finish line.

"It would have been very easy for Jimmie to come in here with a chip on his shoulder," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "For those who know Jimmie, he doesn't carry a grudge. He lets it go."

Well, not so much this time. "It lingered a little for me," Johnson said Sunday.

He disagreed with NASCAR's decision at the time, and his opinion didn't change on Friday when he arrived at Pocono.

He compared Montoya to an NBA flopper, saying Montoya deliberately slowed down and forced him to move ahead of Montoya too soon. Montoya laughed and said Johnson couldn't accept that he mistimed his move.

Johnson took no chances Sunday. He did everything right on each restart, whether he was the leader or the second-place car.

So does Sunday's victory make up for the Dover downer?

"No, but it's OK," Johnson said. "You have to move on. We know we are a great race team. Things won't keep us down."

Johnson admitted some of the restarts were nerve-racking, considering last's week's problems.

"It was a concern," he said. "We were spinning the left rear tire [on some restarts Sunday], and it would start vibrating. On restarts, there's only so many tricks you have to play by the rules. Fortunately, we able to get through the [restart] zone each time."

Sunday was Johnson's third Pocono victory but his first since 2004 when he won both Pocono events that season. Johnson now has three victories this season, tying him with Matt Kenseth for the most wins in 2013.

Carl Edwards led the first nine laps Sunday before Johnson took control. The only time Johnson didn't lead after that point came from pit strategy, either green-flag stops or Ryan Newman pitting off sequence to get in front.

The other drivers had plenty of chances to make something happen down the stretch. The race had only one caution in the first 125 laps but five in the last 35 laps.
Pocono Results

So the dreaded restart drama could have bitten Johnson again. Didn't happen.

Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished third, had a few shots at him. And Greg Biffle, who finished second, gave it his best shot on the last restart. No luck.

"I just wanted to get on his bumper a little bit, but Jimmie was in a league of his own," Biffle said. "I gave him such a good push on the last restart that I just couldn't catch back up."

No one could.

"I wish our cars were as good as [Johnson and the 48 team] right now," Biffle said. "We still have a little bit of work to do on our cars. Those guys are still a little bit faster than us. But we keep working. We're not going to give up."

Sunday was a race in which surrendering seemed like a viable option against Johnson, but Earnhardt sees an advantage to his teammate's performance.

"Fortunately for me, we're in the same shop as those guys,'' Earnhardt said. "We can lean on them and see exactly what's happening under the hood. When it's good for Jimmie, it's good for us."

Earnhardt started next to Johnson on a couple of restarts near the end of the race. That stopped Johnson from doing a few restart shenanigans of him own.

"I wanted to prove a point and show what can happen in the restart zone," Johnson said. "But I couldn't do it to a teammate."

Johnson didn't need any gamesmanship to win it; just do what he does best and prove again why he's the best driver in racing today.

He now has a 51-point lead over second-place Edwards in the season standings, more than a driver can make up in one race. The Chase standings are based on victories, but Johnson sees one advantage to a big points lead toward the end of the regular season.

"If Channi [his wife] goes into labor early, I don't have to worry about Richmond," Johnson said.

Johnson could sit out the last regular-season race if he needs time in the delivery room for the birth of their second child.

Imagine being so good you could consider skipping a race?

"He's one the best drivers the sport's ever seen,'' Earnhardt said. "And Chad is one of the smartest crew chiefs the sport's ever seen."

Knaus was giving his driver all the credit for Sunday's victory.

"Jimmie is switched on right now," Knaus said. "He is as good or better than I've ever seen him.''

That's a scary thought for anyone hoping to beat him and keep him from winning a sixth Sprint Cup championship this season.

Johnson partied in the Poconos Sunday. There's a long way to go, but it's looking like a good bet he'll be partying on South Beach in November after the season finale in South Florida.


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