Jimmie Johnson scored his eighth career Charlotte Motor Speedway win Sunday. The six time champion led a race high 155 laps and broke a 24 race winless streak Sunday. He was the only driver among the 12 Chase drivers to avoid any issues. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It took an extra day thanks to Hurricane Matthew, but under bright blue skies Kevin Harvick led the field to the green. Alex Bowman started second with Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart rounding out the top five.
Matt Kenseth was sent from his 17th starting spot to the back of the field for unapproved adjustment. He was the only car sent to the rear.
Harvick charged to the front; Bowman dropped back and by the end of the first lap, Elliott was second, Kyle Busch third, Bowman fourth, Stewart fifth.
Elliott was looking for the lead and took the top spot on lap 13, and was soon checking out. AL Allmendinger had moved to fifth, Jimmie Johnson sixth as Stewart had slipped to seventh.
By lap 18 the lead was nearing 2 seconds. Johnson nearly lost it entering turn 1, but recovered and was soon back to seventh behind Denny Hamlin. Elliott was lapping the back of the field by lap 20
Because of only one practice session, and the qualifying session, due to rain, NASCAR had called for a competition caution for lap 25. That caution came out on lap 26, erasing a 2.6 lead for Elliott. There were 35 cars on the lead lap. Those lead lap cars all pitted.
Elliott was first out, followed by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Bowman and Allmendinger; Joey Logano was among those penalized. His crew had gone over the wall too soon as did the crew of Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, and Matt Kenseth. All were sent to the rear of the field. NASCAR rescinded Logano’s penalty prior to the green. Kenseth restarted 27th.
The green came back out on lap 30. Elliott and Busch were side by side entering turn 1; it was a three wide battle for third behind. By the end of the lap Elliott led, Kyle Busch was second, Bowman third, Allmendinger fourth, Harvick fifth. Harvick took fourth on lap 37.
The lead was 2.4 seconds by lap 46; Bowman had worked his way up to third, Harvick fourth, and Carl Edwards fifth. By lap 51, the lead was just over 3 seconds. After running fifth, Stewart was struggling and had fallen to 19th.
The second caution of the day came out on lap 62 when Bowman and Casey Mears got together in turn 3 after Bowman lost a left front tire and slid up into the outside wall collecting Mears. Both were able to limp to the garage. The damage on Bowman’s Chevy prevented him from turning into the garage and pit road remained closed for several laps.
Pit road opened on lap 66 and the leaders all pitted. Elliot was out first followed by Harvick, Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski was penalized for his crew over the wall too soon; he was running 13th.
Green came back out on lap 71; Elliott had the lead by turn 1, Harvick fell into second behind, followed by Edwards, Kyle Busch and Larson.
Kyle Busch and Larson were fighting for fourth on lap 82; the lead up front was nearing a second. Kyle Busch reported a tire issue and pitted under green on lap 89. He rejoined the field one lap down in 31st. The crew reported that the right front tire was coming apart.
The lead up front was just over 2 seconds by lap 95. Edwards running third, reported a possible vibration.
The top five at lap 100: Elliott, Harvick, Edwards, Logano and Johnson.; Larson pitted under green on lap 101 with a tire issue.
Green flag stops started on lap 111, Edwards pitted from third. Harvick pitted on lap 113. Martin Truex Jr. pitted on the same lap and had a long stop. Elliott pitted on lap 115.
Logano, who had yet to pit, hit the wall in turn 2 after losing a tire on lap 116. Caution 3 waved. The caution came during the round of green flag stops leaving only seven cars on the lead lap. Those cars, lead by Johnson pitted.
On the restart on lap 125, with 22 wave arounds, Johnson led, followed by Hamlin, Keselowski, Chris Buescher and Clint Bowyer. Harvick restarted 7th, followed by Elliott and Edwards. Johnson and Hamlin were side by side until turn 4, when Hamlin was able to get the lead on the high side; Keselowski settled into third. Buescher was fourth, Greg Biffle fifth.
Harvick went to fifth on lap 129, he went to fourth a lap later.
Unlike past runs, Hamlin in the lead couldn’t check out and Johnson remained less than a half second behind. By lap 131, Johnson was looking to retake the lead. Biffle went to fifth on lap 193. Elliott was sixth by lap 145.
In lapped traffic on lap 147, Johnson was again looking for the lead; Elliott took fifth behind. Biffle pitted on lap 149, under green with a possible tire issue. He was penalized or speeding.
Harvick had an engine issue and slowed off turn 4 on lap 153. Behind him, Logano went into the wall in turn 2 and caution 4 came out. It was a hard hit for the defending race winner and the driver who won all three races in this Chase round last year.
Harvick’s crew had the hood up and was furiously working on the engine, as Logano headed to the garage.
The leaders all pitted. Hamlin was out first, Johnson second followed by Keselowski, Elliott and Jamie McMurray. Harvick’s Chevy was pushed behind the wall. Kyle Busch’s crew was penalized for going over the wall too soon and an uncontrolled tire and sent to the rear of the field.
The restart came on lap 162; Hamlin had a clear lead by turn 1 bringing Keselowski with him for second. Johnson got back and soon the two were side by side, as Elliott lurked close behind. By lap 164, Johnson had second, Keselowski third, Elliott fourth. McMurray was fifth. The top four were all close.
Johnson was looking for the lead on lap 169 side by side with Hamlin. Hamlin held him off, but Johnson was still close. Elliott was looking for third behind. Keselowski was able to defend. The top four were still nose to tail.
Johnson was again trying for the lead on lap 174; Hamlin again held him off. Johnson finally got the lead out of turn 4 on lap 176. On the next lap, Keselowski slipped up the track in turn 2, and Elliott grabbed third. Harvick’s car was pushed to the garage.
Elliott went to second on lap 182. Johnson had stretched out his lead to 1.2 seconds.
There were 18 cars on the lead lap at lap 195. Ryan Newman took fifth on lap 198. He took fourth on lap 201. Keselowski stayed close. Biffle hit the wall in turn 2 on the same lap and pitted. Drivers reported possible debris from Biffle’s car.
At lap 203: Johnson, Elliott, Hamlin, Newman and Keselowski.
Green flag stops started on lap 212 behind the leaders with Kenseth and Truex. Keselowski pitted on the next lap. Johnson, Elliott and Newman pitted on lap 214.
After the stops cycled through Johnson had a lead of just over 2 seconds over Elliott. Hamlin, Keselowski and Truex rounded out the top five. There were 15 cars on the lead lap.
The fifth caution of the day came out on lap 229 for debris on the backstretch. The leaders all pitted. Johnson was out first followed by Elliott, Hamlin, Truex and Keselowski. During the caution, Logano returned to the track 78 laps down.
Green came out on lap 236; Johnson had the lead from the outside by turn 1, Elliott and Truex dueled side by side with Truex grabbing the spot. Newman and Kenseth were fourth and fifth.
Elliott closed the gap and was threatening to take second by lap 244; the lead for Johnson had stretched out to just over a second. Elliott was side by side with Truex for second on lap 247. Harvick’s crew reported that he was officially done for the day with an engine issue, he would finish the day 38th.
Elliott dropped back by lap 251; Kyle Busch in eighth got into the wall exiting turn 4 on the same lap. Elliott finally got second on lap 254, just as the sixth caution of the day came out when Allmendinger hit the wall between turns 1 and 2. The leaders all pitted. Johnson came out first, Austin Dillon took only two tires and came out second followed by Truex, Hamlin and Elliott. Dillon was the only car to take only two tires and gained nine spots.
The green waved on lap 259 with Johnson on the outside, Dillon on the inside. On the restart Johnson took off but Dillon was pushed behind and spun; Dillon spun down into the outside pit wall after getting pushed by Truex; the field stacked up behind setting off a multicar crash. NASCAR soon waved the red flag for the cleanup. Those involved included Elliott, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Brian Scott, Biffle, Edwards, and Truex among a total of 14 cars involved who received damage. Most were able to continue, Elliott, Dillon, and Menard were among those who couldn’t.
After a red flag of 10 minutes and 48 seconds, the field was put back under yellow. Kyle Busch was among those who pitted to fix damage.
The top five on the track: Johnson, Hamlin, Kenseth, Newman, Truex.
Green came out on lap 266; Johnson and Hamlin were side-by-side entering turn 1, with Johnson getting the lead by the exit of turn 3. Newman fell into third; Kenseth was fourth, Truex fifth.
Kenseth took third on lap 281. Truex was looking for fourth on lap 291. He got the spot on lap 293 when Newman was caught up behind a lapped car.
With 40 to go, the lead for Johnson was just under a second.
Fuel strategy came into play as the laps wound down. On lap 308, Hamlin, running second, lost an engine exiting turn 4, ending the day for another Chase driver and erasing any fuel mileage gamble for the rest of the field.
The leaders all pitted; Kenseth was out first, Johnson second, followed by Newman, Larson and Kasey Kahne. Truex stalled his car and lost many spots. He came out 16th.
The green came out with 18 laps to go. Johnson and Kenseth were side by side for nearly the entire lap until Johnson was able to get the top spot exiting turn 4. Newman fell into third, followed by Kahne and Larson.
Up front, Johnson was starting to stretch out his lead. With 14 to go, his lead was nearing a second.
With 10 to go, the lead was just over a second.
The lead was 1.1 seconds with 5 to go. The lead was 1.4 seconds when Johnson took the white flag.
There were no issues on the final lap, and Johnson was able to break a 24 race winless streak to score his 78th career win and his 8th at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kenseth was second, Kahne was third, followed by Newman and Larson.
Kyle Busch finished sixth, Keselowski seventh, with Kurt Busch, Stewart and McMurray rounding out the top 10. The full results can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Kansas Speedway for next Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. Live coverage will be on NBC with the green flag coming around 2:15 p.m. ET.