Jimmie Johnson survived a chaotic overtime finish Sunday to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Johnson led the final 40 laps after short pitting and taking the lead from Kevin Harvick who had led a race high 131 laps. The win was the 76th of Johnson’s career and ties him on the all time win list with Dale Earnhardt Sr. Here’s how the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 went down Sunday.
Under clear blue skies Kurt Busch led the field to the green with Jamie McMurray alongside. Kurt had the pole after his brother Kyle see his time Friday night disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection.
Busch took the early lead as McMurray and Trevor Bayne dueled for second. By the end of lap one, McMurray had a clear second spot as Ryan Newman slid into third. Denny Hamlin was making a great deal of time up running high, he was fifth from his 12th starting spot by lap three and passed Kevin Harvick for fourth on lap four. Up front Busch had a lead of 1.2 seconds; on lap 6 Newman got by McMurray for second.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running the same line as Hamlin and had moved from 16th to eighth by lap 8. Hamlin took third from McMurray on lap 9. A lap later Earnhardt was up to fifth. Hamlin’s run to the front ended by lap 14 as he began to fade and he had fallen to eighth. He was tenth by lap 18 and still fading. Busch’s lead up front was 1.20 seconds over Newman. Martin Truex Jr. had moved up to third by lap 13 after breaking the top five on lap 10.
Earnhardt and Kenseth were fighting for position on lap 21 as Earnhardt was also starting to fade. Harvick got by Earnhardt for fifth on lap 22. Truex Jr. was second by lap 24. Busch had already started lapping the field. Earnhardt reported that he had a vibration.
Busch saw his lead shrinking and bay lap 31 the lead was a half a second. Kenseth was third, but took second on lap 33, Harvick was fourth, Newman fifth.
Kenseth began cutting into the lead; it was under a half a second by lap 35. Harvick began to slow dramatically on lap 38 and pitted from fourth reporting a flat right front tire. Earnhardt pitted soon after, followed by Brad Keselowski. Kurt Busch pitted from the lead behind Earnhardt on lap 40, Kenseth pitted a lap later. Most of the field began to cycle through green flag stops.
Kurt Busch reassumed the lead after the stops cycled through; Kenseth was second, Harvick third followed by Carl Edwards and Newman fifth. Edwards grabbed third on lap 46. Jimmie Johnson broke the top five on lap 47. Up front, Busch had a lead of 1.48 seconds. Johnson took fourth from Harvick on lap 53. Harvick stayed close and by lap 63 was looking for the spot back; up front Kenseth has caught Busch and on lap 64 got the lead. Harvick had reclaimed fourth.
Kenseth began to stretch out his lead; by lap 68 he had a 1.45 gap over Kurt Busch. Keselowski and Johnson were reporting vibrations. Johnson pitted on lap 71 as Harvick reported he might have another tire issue.
Kenseth pitted on lap 78, other leaders followed including Kurt Busch and Edwards. Johnson by virtue of his early pit stop had the lead when the cycle ended, Kenseth was second nearly three seconds back, Kurt Busch was third. Kenseth would not be denied however and with 10 lap fresher tires on lap 84 made up the time and grabbed the lead; Joey Logano broke into the top five for the first time in the race behind. By lap 91 Kenseth had a lead of just over 2.5 seconds; there were 18 cars on the lead lap.
Kenseth caught Hamlin who was in 18th on lap 103 and started to try and put him a lap down; behind them Harvick grabbed fourth from Logano. Truex was lurking just behind and looking for fifth. Kurt Busch was starting to close the gap on Kenseth; it was 1.5 seconds by lap 109.
Harvick seized the lead on lap 116 as Kenseth was caught up behind McMurray and a new round of green flag stops got underway. Harvick pitted on lap 117 with Kenseth. The duo came out nose to tail ending the round of stops. Kenseth retook the lead but he was penalized by NASCAR for the fuel man making adjustments while pitting and was forced in for a pass through penalty. On the track, Truex Jr. was scored as the leader. Kenseth stayed on the track as his crew chief argued the call, and soon NASCAR gave Kenseth the black flag with a white cross indicating that he was not be scored. Kenseth finally came in for his pass through on lap 125. Kenseth was not scored for a lap and lost another serving his penalty. Truex led, Johnson was second, followed by Harvick, Logano and Kurt Busch. Kenseth was scored 32nd.
Harvick got by Truex for the lead on lap 135. Soon Harvick’s lead was over a second. By lap 147 Harvick’s lead was just over four seconds. Earnhardt Jr. moved to fifth on lap 150 just as Newman began another round of green flag stops; Truex and Edwards followed. Harvick pitted on lap 151. Logano slid into the pits and went into the grass hitting the commitment cone; NASCAR hit him with a pass through penalty.
On the track, Harvick led, Truex was second, Johnson third, Edwards was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth. On lap 155 Harvick slowed for a moment and Truex retook the lead. Kyle Busch had made his way inside the top 10 and was seventh. Harvick got back by Truex for the lead on lap 165.
Just past the halfway mark, Harvick led, Truex was second, Johnson third followed by Edwards and Kurt Busch. There were 11 cars on the lead lap.
The fourth round of green flag stops started on lap 182. Harvick pitted from the lead on lap 184. When the stops cycled through, Harvick led, Truex was second, Johnson was third, Edwards fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.
By lap 200 Harvick’s lead was over 3 seconds. By lap 206 the lead was just over 5 seconds.
The first caution on the day came out on lap 210 for debris on the backstretch. The leaders all came in for stops, the first under caution of the day. Harvick was out first, Johnson second, Edwards third followed by Kyle Busch and Earnhardt.
The first restart of the day came on lap 216 Harvick led on the inside; Johnson was second on the outside. Harvick was able to take a clear lead, Johnson slid into second behind followed by Edwards, Truex and Kyle Busch. Logano was forced in with a lose wheel on lap 241; he went down two laps. Harvick’s lead was under a half a second.
Kurt Busch started a round of green flag stops on lap 250; Harvick pitted from the lead on lap 251. Harvick was back in the lead after the stops, Truex was second. Only two laps after the stops however Truex was able to muscle past Harvick for the lead. Harvick went back to the lead on lap 259, but Truex battled back and retook point on lap 260. The two began to swap the lead with Harvick low and Truex high. By lap 263, Harvick was able to move ahead and take a clear lead. His lead was 1.8 seconds on lap 264 as Truex reported that his car was getting loose and his in-car adjustments were not working. Johnson was third, Kyle Busch fourth and Earnhardt fifth.
Johnson pitted on lap 302. Harvick’s lead was 3.6 seconds over Truex. Edwards and Kurt Busch pitted on lap 308, Johnson was hoping for no caution has he was a lap down. Harvick came in on lap 309. Johnson was able to get his lap back and took the lead as the stops cycled through. Harvick was second 14 seconds behind, Truex was third, Kyle Busch fourth and Edwards fifth.
Harvick was soon cutting into Johnson’s lead; the gap was 10 seconds with 30 laps to go. Earnhardt Jr. moved into fifth with 29 laps to go as Kyle Busch went to third in front of Truex. With 20 to go the lead was 6.7 seconds. Truex was third, Kyle Busch fourth, and Earnhardt fifth. With 10 to go, the lead was still holding at around 6 seconds.
The lead for Johnson was erased when Newman lost a left rear tire and slid into the entrance of turn 1 and the second caution of the day came out with three laps to go. The leaders all came in for stops. Johnson was out first, Harvick was second, Kyle Busch third, Truex fourth and Earnhardt fifth.
Johnson led the field for the final overtime restart. Johnson was able to gain advantage as Kyle Busch slid into second, Earnhardt went to third, Kurt Busch was fourth, Edwards fifth. Harvick had slid his tires on the restart and fell back. Behind the leaders a multicar crash erupted among Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill, and David Regan. Johnson crossed the line, NASCAR showed him the white flag followed by the yellow. Earnhardt Jr. was seconds beating Kyle Busch to the line by inches, Kurt Busch was fourth, Edwards fifth, Harvick was scored in sixth.
Truex was seventh followed by Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The full results can be found here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series moves west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt 400 next Sunday. Live coverage will be on Fox at 3:30 p.m.