Johnson Ties Earnhardt With 76th Win
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 28, 2016 | 4:34 P.M. EST
"I remembered it on my victory lap coming down, and I had to come by and throw a ‘three’ out the window to pay my respects to the man." (Photo: Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson prevailed in overtime Sunday to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Johnson was ahead when the field raced past the overtime line as an accident broke out behind the leaders. NASCAR was forced to display the caution and Johnson scored his first win of the season.
It was Johnson’s 76th career Sprint Cup Series victory tying him with Dale Earnhardt Sr. for seventh on the all-time win list.
“It’s such an honor,” Johnson said of tying Earnhardt. “With the chaos at the end and the crash and wondering about overtime and how it worked these days, I kind of lost sight of that. I remembered it on my victory lap coming down, and I had to come by and throw a ‘three’ out the window to pay my respects to the man. There’s a huge void in my career that I never had a chance to race with him, but at least I was able to tie his record.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.
Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the first 10 finishers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Sunday afternoon.
How Johnson Won: Johnson took advantage of a gutsy call by crew chief Chad Knaus to pit earlier than most of the leaders on the final trip for service under green flag conditions. That gave him a healthy lead that Harvick, despite leading a race-high 131 laps and was trying to hustle back to the lead, could not run down in regulation. But when Ryan Newman cut a tire with three laps to go, it set up an overtime restart and Johnson got a perfect restart to pull away from Harvick and the rest of the field for the historic win.
Who Had a Good Day: Kyle Busch had his qualifying time disallowed Friday after apparently winning the pole. He was forced to start 39th in the field but drove his way back to a third-place finish...Edwards has now finished fifth in both races this season...Elliott rebounded from his Daytona disappointment to score his first career Sprint Cup Series top-10 finish.
Who Had a Bad Day: Matt Kenseth had the lead and was looking to erase the bitter memory of last week’s last lap in the Daytona 500. However, he was the victim of miscommunication with the No. 20 JGR team. After a penalty was assessed to the team’s fuel man for handling a piece of equipment while the fuel line was engaged, Kenseth didn’t know he had been black-flagged by NASCAR for not coming to pit road while his crew was arguing the call and trying to understand what had been assessed...Clint Bowyer wiped out while taking part in a Supercross exhibition Saturday night in Atlanta and that was just the start of his rough weekend. Bowyer suffered through a miserable day on Sunday and fell several laps back early with problems to fall out of contention in short order...Aric Almirola and David Ragan were part of the multi-car crash that happened on the backstretch in the overtime finish to end the race.
What Else Happened: The race was the first using the lower aerodynamic down force rules package NASCAR introduced this season. For the most part it created a different kind of racing than had been seen on most intermediate tracks like Atlanta in the past few seasons with tire wear and management causing drivers to wrestle with their cars most of the 500-mile race. The race only had one caution flag before the Newman crash at the end sent it into overtime.
Quote of the Day: "We've been doing that forever. For some reason today that's a penalty," Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
Notables: Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five Atlanta races...Kurt Busch scored his fifth straight top-10 finish...Harvick led the most laps at Atlanta for the third straight race but has failed to win any of those races.
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