Jimmie Johnson, driving the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, wins the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After his burnout, Johnson took a victory lap around AMS with three fingers out the window to salute the late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, who had nine victories at AMS.
This marks an achievement for Johnson with his 76th victory in 509 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, tying him with Dale Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time series wins list. This is Johnson’s first win for the 2016 season and his fifth victory at AMS.
“It’s such an honor,” said Johnson, a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. “With the chaos and the end and the crash and wondering about overtime and how it worked these days, I kind of lost sight of that. And I remembered on my victory lap coming down and had to come by and throw a ‘3’ out the window to pay respects to the man.”
Chad Knaus, crew chief for the #48 Chevrolet, made a strategic call, bringing Johnson in for fresh rubber nine laps before the leader Kevin Harvick. Harvick, driving the #4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, dominated the race leading 131 of the 329 laps but Johnson was able to build a big lead while Harvick continued to circle the track with old tires. At one point during the race Johnson’s lead was more than 13 seconds, Harvick was able to cut the lead down to a little more than 5 seconds when the yellow flag wove for the second time in the race.
Ryan Newman blew a tire with three laps to go; everyone came into the pits for new tires with Johnson returning to the track still leading, before resetting the field for a final lap dash. Johnson had Kyle Busch right behind him, with Harvick on the outside lane followed by Martin Truex Jr. Harvick spun the tires as Truex Jr. hit the #4 Chevrolet from behind causing Harvick to drift up high and out of contention with Johnson and Ky. Busch leading the field.
Johnson pulled away from Ky. Busch opening up the position for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to race the #18 Toyota back to the finish line, as the only wreck of the day ended the race. Earnhardt Jr. edged Ky. Busch out of second by 0.02 seconds. Giving Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2 finish; in the smallest starting field of 39 cars since North Wilkesboro in September of 1996.
“It was 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 there.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, for the Kobalt Tools 400. Qualifying for the race will be Friday, March 4 with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Race coverage will beginning on Sunday, March 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET with coverage on Fox.