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Johnson Captures Overtime Victory In Atlanta

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 28 2016
Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won for the 76th time on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won for the 76th time on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

RacinToday.com

Jimmie Johnson came through with a nearly perfect, lead-retaining restart in overtime and went on to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The victory was Johnson’s 76th and it tied him with Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the career-win list. Johnson honored the late seven-time chance by showing three fingers to the crowd on his victory lap.

“I had to pay my respects to the man,” Johnson said of throwing the three.

sprint-logo-08Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, finished second just inches ahead of third-place Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, who led a race-best 131 laps and was P2 next to Johnson on the final restart, wound up sixth after spinning his tires and then taking a couple of shots from other cars that restart.

“Just didn’t execute today,” Harvick said.

As important as the restart was for Johnson, it was an out-of-sequence pit stop on the final green-flag stop of the day that allowed him to be in position to get the win. On that stop, crew chief Chad Knaus called him in nine laps before Harvick and the rest of the leaders. After they cycled through, Johnson
was almost 14-seconds ahead of second-place Harvick.

“Definitely a gutsy call,” Johnson said. “Such a great team effort. The 4 car (Harvick) was awfully tough and it was going to take some strategy to get by him. When he told me to whip it as hard as I could there, I just felt like I was going to take too much life out of the tires. But, it worked. And I got rolling around the top and got to where I got this Lowe’s Chevy in Victory Lane.”

Kurt Busch started from the pole and led the entire first fuel run of 38 laps. After pitting cycle through on Lap 42, he was back out front.

The first pass for the lead on the track came on Lap 64 as Matt Kenseth moved past Kurt Busch. Once out front, Kenseth began pulling away. When green flag stops began on Lap 78, Kenseth had nearly a 2-second lead over Kurt Busch.

When Kenseth and the other leaders pitted, Johnson, who pitted out of sequence because of vibration on Lap 72, claimed the lead. Johnson maintained the lead for five laps. He was then passed by Kenseth.

Once out front, Kenseth again began to pull away. By Lap 95, he was over 3 seconds ahead of second-place Kurt Busch.

On Lap 115, near the end of the next green flag stint, Harvick caught and passed Kenseth on the track to take the lead.

Kenseth recaptured the lead when pitting cycled through. During his stop, however, officials issued a penalty for illegal fueling and Kenseth was ordered to perform a pass through. Kenseth didn’t respond and was black flagged. In all, the penalties pushed him two laps off the pace.

Meanwhile, on Lap 118, Martin Truex Jr. moved to the lead for the first time.

On Lap 135, Harvick moved past Truex and took the lead. Once out front, it was Harvick’s turn to build a big lead. By Lap 150, the lead was over 5 seconds.

On Lap 151, green flag stops began. After the stops cycled through, Harvick had a five-car length lead over Truex. On Lap 155, Truex passed Harvick for the lead. Seven laps later, Harvick took the lead back.

On Lap 182, yet another set of green flag stops began. When the pitting cycled through on Lap 187, Harvick was a second and a half ahead of Truex at the front.

On Lap 210 of the 325-lap race, the first caution flag of the day waved. The cause was debris. Harvick exited the pits first. Behind him were Johnson, Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch. Truex, who had a slow stop, restarted sixth.

With 75 laps to go, green flag stops began. When the pitting cycled through, Harvick had a .7 second lead over Truex. With 66 laps to go, Truex caught and passed Harvick for the lead. Four laps later Harvick came back on recaptured the lead.

With 43 laps to go, the final round of scheduled green flag stops began. Harvick had a 5-plus second lead over Truex when the stops began.

Taking the lead was Johnson, who pitted nine laps earlier and out of sequence. His lead was over 13 seconds but as his tires began to give up, the lead began to diminish.

With 30 laps to go, the lead was just under 10 seconds. With 20 laps to go, Johnson’s lead was just under 7 seconds. However, the gap began to stabilize after that. With 12 laps to go, Johnson began running slightly faster laps than Harvick.

“It was exciting for sure,” Knaus said. “Obviously we were monitoring his (Harvick’s) lap times very closely. We knew that that once we got about 20 laps into (the tire run), the laps times leveled off. So, I’m kind of surprised that those guys didn’t come in earlier than they did. But man, Jimmie really did a good job. He really whipped it and made up a lot of time on those guys.”

But with three laps to go, Ryan Newman blew a tire to bring out the second yellow of the day. All of the lead lap cars pitted for tires. Johnson came out first for the overtime restart, Harvick second, Kyle Busch third, Truex fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.

Johnson, starting on the low line, restarted clean, Harvick did not and Johnson had the lead at the overtime line before a crash occurred back in the field and got the win.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Hampton, Georgia

Sunday, February 28, 2016

  1. (19) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 330.
  2. (16) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 330.
  3. (39) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 330.
  4. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 330.
  5. (7) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 330.
  6. (6) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 330.
  7. (9) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 330.
  8. (24) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 330.
  9. (17) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 330.
  10. (5) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 330.
  11. (8) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 330.
  12. (26) Joey Logano, Ford, 330.
  13. (14) Greg Biffle, Ford, 329.
  14. (15) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 329.
  15. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 328.
  16. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 328.
  17. (18) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 328.
  18. (21) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 328.
  19. (13) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 328.
  20. (25) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 328.
  21. (2) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 328.
  22. (3) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 328.
  23. (11) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 328.
  24. (4) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 328.
  25. (23) * Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 328.
  26. (20) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 327.
  27. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 326.
  28. (31) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 326.
  29. (35) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 326.
  30. (34) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 325.
  31. (10) Brian Scott #, Ford, 324.
  32. (33) David Ragan, Toyota, 323.
  33. (32) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 323.
  34. (30) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 323.
  35. (28) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 322.
  36. (29) Landon Cassill, Ford, 321.
  37. (36) * Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 318.
  38. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Ford, 313.
  39. (37) * Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 312.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  155.863 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 15 Mins, 38 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Caution.

Caution Flags:  3 for 13 laps.

Lead Changes:  28 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   Kurt Busch 1-39; M. Kenseth 40; C. Edwards 41; C. Whitt 42; Kurt Busch 43-63; M. Kenseth 64-77; Kurt Busch 78-79; J. Johnson 80-83; M. Kenseth 84-115; K. Harvick 116-117; M. Truex Jr 118-134; K. Harvick 135-150; J. Johnson 151; K. Harvick 152-154; M. Truex Jr 155-164; K. Harvick 165-183; J. Johnson 184-185; Kyle Busch 186; K. Harvick 187-211; M. Truex Jr 212; K. Harvick 213-251; M. Truex Jr 252; K. Harvick 253-255; M. Truex Jr 256-258; K. Harvick 259; M. Truex Jr 260-261; K. Harvick 262-284; Kyle Busch 285; J. Johnson 286-330.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Harvick 9 times for 131 laps; Kurt Busch 3 times for 62 laps; J. Johnson 4 times for 52 laps; M. Kenseth 3 times for 47 laps; M. Truex Jr 6 times for 34 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 2 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 1 lap; C. Whitt 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: Kyle Busch – 78; M. Truex Jr – 75; K. Harvick – 74; C. Edwards – 73; D. Hamlin – 70; J. Johnson – 70; Kurt Busch – 69; J. Logano – 64; A. Dillon – 63; A. Almirola – 55; B. Keselowski – 54; M. Kenseth – 51; R. Stenhouse Jr – 50; K. Larson – 49; R. Newman – 48; K. Kahne – 46.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 28 2016
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