Johnson chose wisely on the restart on Lap 194, taking the preferred outside line which he fiercely protected to take the checkered flag.
After going through a two-year championship drought, and seven years between Daytona 500 victories, Johnson was asked if Sunday’s triumph signaled his return to championship form.
“No, I don’t think we went anywhere,’’ Johnson said. “Everybody in the garage area, they’re wise to all that. We had great pace last year, championship form, had two bad races at the end.
“You know, I’m just enjoying this moment. This is a one-of-a-kind race.’’
Johnson’s 61st career win came in his 400th career start — Lee and Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dave Marcis, and Dale Earnhardt are the only other drivers in NASCAR history to win in their 400th start.
And it is one Johnson should get a lot of mileage from in his quest for another title.
“When we pull into the gates at Phoenix next weekend, it’s a totally different game as we all know,’’ Johnson said. “If there’s some down points through the year, we’ll look back on this race and smile again.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.