Eight is Great for Johnson at Charlotte
By: Robbie Mays - @robbiemays | MRN.com on October 9, 2016 | 3:58 P.M. EST
Johnson celebrates his 78th career win. (Photo: Getty Images)
CONCORD, N.C. - Jimmie Johnson scored the win in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday to advance to the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Johnson led a race-high 155 laps in scoring his eighth Charlotte win, 78th of his career, third of 2016 and first since winning at Auto Club Speedway in March.
And it signals a return to form for the six-time Sprint Cup Champion, who had struggled to find consistency over the summer.
“When you drive for Rick Hendrick and have all the great people at Hendrick Motorsports working for you, there are just so many great people behind us and that support us to make this happen,” Johnson said in Victory Lane. “We knew we would get back. It was slower than we wanted it to be but to be here today and have this victory is great."
After the struggles this summer, Johnson said the team went back to basics.
“Really we just fell back on what we are made of at Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “There is a culture there and a belief. It was not fun to experience after all that we have been through but we have seen the cars get stronger, better and faster.”
“We were able to execute all day long here. I just really can’t thank everyone enough that supports us and for all the fans that were tuned in today.”
Behind Johnson was Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson in the top five.
Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Johnson will now take a five-point lead over Kenseth to Kansas Speedway next week where he is a three-time winner.
How Johnson Won: Johnson started 11th and slowly worked his way into the top 10, taking the lead for the first time on Lap 117. Johnson stayed near the front and then traded the lead several times in the second half of the race with several drivers, including his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who led 103 laps. On the final restart on Lap 316, Johnson powered around race leader Matt Kenseth and drove away to a 1.5 second lead.
“The track got so slick that I actually found that restarting on the bottom was a little bit better than what I had up top,” Johnson said. “I was able to throw it down to the inside of the 20 in turn three and make the pass. Restarts were tricky all day."
Who Else Had a Good Day: Kyle Busch. After overcoming an early pit road penalty and getting into the Lap 260 restart crash, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team repaired his car enough to finish a respectable sixth. Busch continues his winless streak at Charlotte Motor Speedway but goes to Kansas Speedway next week, where he won in May, third in points.
Who Had a Bad Day: Five Chase drivers who finished 30th or worse. Denny Hamlin was 30th with a blown engine (Read More)...Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott were taken out in a crash on a restart on Lap 259 (Read More)...Joey Logano suffered a tire failure which put him in the wall with damage and Kevin Harvick had an issue with his ECU unit (Read More).
What Else Happened: A trio of non-Chase drivers rounded out the top-five finishers, led by Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne. After failing to make the Chase, Kahne has finished in the top-10 in five of the last six races. Kahne was followed by Ryan Newman in fourth and Kyle Larson in fifth, who was knocked out of the Chase after a poor finish last week at Dover.
Quote of the Day: “Humpy Wheeler passed out these million dollar bills from way back when and my daughter gave it to me and told me to put it in my pocket for good luck and there it is sweetie, it worked.” - Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane
Notables: In what was likely his final start at Charlotte, Tony Stewart ended a streak of disappointing finishes to come home ninth on Sunday, his 14th career top-10 finish at the track… Danica Patrick started 13th and finished 11th, her best finish of 2016… Martin Truex Jr. who had won three of the last five Sprint Cup races and won at Charlotte in May never found the speed in his car and finished 13th… After starting second, Alex Bowman was caught up in a crash with Casey Mears on Lap 61 and finished 39th.
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