Jimmie Johnson captured his first Sprint Cup victory of the season, winning the QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in a green-white-checker finish.
The victory was the 76th of Johnson’s career, tying him with Dale Earnhardt for seventh on NASCAR’s all-time list.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, making it a 1-2 afternoon for Hendrick Motorsports. Kyle Busch, who started at the rear of the field after failing post-race was third. Pole-winner Kurt Busch was fourth.
The race ended in overtime when Ryan Newman crashed with two laps remaining. Johnson, who was leading at the time, went to the pits for four tires. He stayed in the lead after the restart. Johnson had taken the lead after a pit stop on Lap 276, nine before Kevin Harvick, who was in second before Newman’s wreck.
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Johnson made a post-race victory lap in honor of the senior Earnhardt, who died in a crash at Daytona in 2001. He held out three fingers -- symbolic of Earnhardt’s car number.
“It’s such an honor with the chaos at the end,” said “Johnson. “I kind of lost sight of that. I remembered on my victory lap to come out and throw a 3 out the window.”
On Lap 276, crew chief Chad Knaus elected to bring Jimmie Johnson in for four new tires – nine laps before race leader Kevin Harvick came in. Johnson took a huge lead when Harvick came in nine laps later and never trailed after that.
Three who mattered
Jimmie Johnson: Held off the field in green-white-checker finish and ties Dale Earnhardt in career victories. Next up: Cale Yarborough (83).
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Said he enjoyed racing the new low downforce aero package on his way to a second-place finish.
Kevin Harvick: Had a strong car, like he did at Daytona last week. But, like at Daytona, another disappointing finish (sixth).
▪ Team owner Rick Hendrick said he was surprised about Stewart-Haas Racing’s decision to switch from Chevrolet to Ford in 2017. But Hendrick, whose Hendrick Motorsports helps SHR with chassis and engines, also said he didn’t anticipate the move to have much of an impact on his company.
“Life goes on,” Hendrick said. “We will still have a relationship with them. We’ll pull for them until they put that oval on their hood.”
▪ Matt Kenseth fell out of contention and finished 19th after he was penalized for improper fueling during a pit stop. Kenseth’s fuel man sat a tool on the car’s deck lid while the fuel can was engaged, a rules violation. Kenseth went two laps down after serving a pass-through penalty.
▪ Kyle Busch finished third after starting at the rear of the field (he failed post-qualifying inspection after winning the pole). He worked his way all the way to third and had a chance to win on the final re-start.
▪ Clint Bowyer won a NASCAR all-star motocross sprint exhibition race Saturday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Bowyer finished ahead of Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Greg Biffle before crashing into a foam barrier. He was OK.
▪ NASCAR confiscated the right-rear braces of Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard after pre-race inspection. The parts are considered optional and no penalties are expected.
They said it
“It’s such an honor.” – Johnson, of tying Dale Earnhardt for seventh place on NASCAR’s all-time victory list.
Where/when: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sunday, 3:30 p.m.