They’ll be no lingering wait for Jimmie Johnson’s first win this season.
Johnson held off a stout challenge from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a restart with 14 of 325 laps remaining and cruised to victory in Sunday’s rain-delayed Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Once Johnson cleared Earnhardt on the restart, Kevin Harvick got around Earnhardt but couldn’t get near enough to attempt a pass for the lead and finished second.
Earnhardt was third, Joey Logano was fourth and Matt Kenseth rallied from two laps down to finish fifth.
The win is the 71st of Johnson’s Cup career and comes in the season’s second race. It’s also his fourth victory at Atlanta. His first win of last season didn’t come until the end of May.
On Lap 257, Denny Hamlin’s car got loose racing around Harvick and spun on in the middle of the field. The accident collected the cars of Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman. Hamlin, McMurray and Gordon were forced to the garage for extensive repairs.
Three who mattered
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson had some struggles picking up track position after starting from the rear of the field, but by late in the race he clearly had the fastest car.
Kevin Harvick: He was second for the second consecutive week.
Brett Moffitt: Of the three drivers substituting for Cup series regulars, Moffitt turned in the best performance, finishing eighth in place of Brian Vickers, who should return to Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota next weekend at Las Vegas.
He said it
“This takes a ton of pressure off. I want to give a big shout-out to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports – we had such a strong run today.” — Jimmie Johnson, race winner
▪ Even though Atlanta Motor Speedway added tire packs to cover some areas it did not have energy-absorbing SAFER barriers, Gordon again was involved in a wreck and slammed into an area of unprotected concrete wall. Has no one learned yet that studies of where cars are “most likely to hit” have proved to be garbage?
▪ It’s much too early to tell how NASCAR’s new aerodynamic package will work out, but one thing that showed up Sunday was teams were forced to pit for tires before the end of a fuel run and that’s a vast improvement in and of itself.
▪ When Atlanta first moved from two Cup series race dates to one, its early March date got the ax. After the problems experienced in the return this year to a late February/early March weekend, we were reminded why.
Moffitt made the most of it: Sunday’s race is the only Sprint Cup Series race Moffitt has on his schedule this season, but he made the most of it as a substitute driver for Vickers in MWR’s No. 55 Toyota.
Moffitt, 22, was in contention for the win until the end and managed an eighth-place finish. Vickers is scheduled to return next weekend at Las Vegas after a recovery from a second open-heart surgery.
“This is truly amazing,” Moffitt said. “I kept learning how to be more aggressive on the restarts and use other people’s air to benefit me. I can’t thank Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota and Aaron’s enough for this opportunity. Wish I could be in the car more often.”
Truex strong again: Martin Truex Jr.’s second consecutive top-10 finish to start the season has him fifth in the series standings – the highest the Furniture Row Racing team has ever been in points.
“This beats where we were last year by about 35 spots at this time of the year,” Truex said. “Excited about what everybody is doing and really pumped up to get the rest of the year going.”
Kobalt Tools 400
When/where: 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Track type: 1.5-mile banked, paved quad-oval.
Race distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps).
TV: Fox.Radio: Performance Racing Network.
Three tweets from Sunday’s race: