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Johnson edges Bowyer at Talladega

April 18, 2011

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— Jimmie Johnson won the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the checkered flag.

Maybe they should go in the NASCAR record books as co-winners.

In a finish that matched the closest in Sprint Cup history, Johnson edged Clint Bowyer by about a foot to win a Talladega two-step Sunday — a victory that wouldn’t have been possible without a big push from Earnhardt.

Junior gave up a chance to end a 101-race winless streak, selflessly agreeing to shove the No. 48 car of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate instead of vice versa in what was essentially a tag-team event.

“I can’t thank Junior enough,” Johnson said. “He made the decision that my car was faster leading. And the way these things are finishing up, the lead car’s going to get the win. ... He was more worried about the team having a good performance than anything.”

The official margin was two-thousandths of a second, tied with Ricky Craven’s win at Darlington in 2003 for the closest since NASCAR went to electronic timing.

It came down to an eight-car sprint. Well, actually, four pairs of cars, with only the guys at the front of the duos having a chance to win the Aaron’s 499.

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