Jimmie Johnson Earns Eighth Win At Charlotte Motor Speedwayby Camille Jones October 9, 2016
CONCORD, N.C.– Jimmie Johnson claimed the victory in Sunday’s rain-postponed Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where multiple Chase contenders suffered in crashes and mechanical failures.
This was Johnson’s eighth victory at the 1.5-mile oval and his 78th career win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. After a summer of no wins, capturing the victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway came as a welcome surprise for the No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports.
“When you drive for Rick Hendrick and have all the great people at Hendrick Motorsports working for you, the great support from Lowe’s and everyone in their stores and Chevrolet, there are just so many great people behind us and that support us to make this happen,” Johnson said. “We knew we would get back. Yes, it was slower than we wanted it to be but to be here today and have this victory is great. Thank you to Sprint, to the fans, to Gatorade, and to Valvoline. This is something very special to our team.”
Finishing in the second position, the driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, Matt Kenseth, earned his 15th top-10 finish in 2016 in Sunday’s event.
“Yeah, it was a great second,” Kenseth said. “I think this is one of the toughest tracks there is on the circuit to pass at. It was better during the day than it is at night and that’s a good thing, because we had to go to the back twice, so we were able to make up some ground and finish okay.”
Kasey Kahne took home the third finishing position in the Bank of America 500. This was Kahne’s 14th top-10 finish in 26 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It was quite the battle to get there,” Kahne said. “We had our work cut out for us. We got to where we were a lot better the first 30 laps of a run the last three runs there. That helped us get some track position and avoid a couple of those wrecks. That was tough on a couple of those teams. I know Chase (Elliott) was part of one. I didn’t see what happened, but that is tough for those guys that are battling for this championship. Congrats to Jimmie (Johnson) and the Hendrick Engines, No. 48 teams, those guys did awesome.”
Over the course of the 500-mile event, there were eight cautions for 51 of the 334 laps.
Alex Bowman, driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet, started the race in second and was putting on an eye-catching performance while filling in for Dale Earnhardt, Jr, until a crash with the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet of Casey Mears on lap 63 sent the two cars to the garage. Bowman was running in the third position at the time of the accident.
“Blew a tire I guess,” Bowman said. “It’s really unfortunate. I hate it for these Axalta guys. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports worked so hard. They brought a great race car here, brand new and destroyed it. Really unfortunate, but it’s not anybody’s fault. We didn’t hit anything we just must have run over something.”
Multiple Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders saw their chances at a championship hindered by mechanical failures, tire issues and wrecks.
On lap 118, Joey Logano, driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Pennzoil Ford made contact with the outside wall due to a flat tire. He was able to continue, until another tire failure on lap 157 sent him into the wall. His car was taken straight to the garage. Logano ended the race in the 36th position.
While Logano needed a respectable finish to keep himself higher up in the points standings to avoid being eliminated from the Chase, he was optimistic that his team could overcome a rough weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’re still fighting,” Logano said. “We’ve got a really good race team and we can go to Kansas and win. These two race tracks, Charlotte and Kansas, are our best ones and we proved last year that we can do it and we’ll just have to do it again.”
Also on lap 157, Kevin Harvick’s car lost power and slowed on the track. The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Busch Hunting Chevrolet was pushed to the garage and Harvick was forced to end his race early due to losing oil pressure, the team believes. Further evaluation will be necessary to know the cause of the mechanical failure. Harvick finished in the 38th position, the lowest of all of the Chase drivers.
“It’s not a power issue with the battery or anything like that,” Harvick’s said. “They are trying to diagnosis it. I hate it for everybody on our Busch team they made some great adjustments today and got our car back where we needed to be to run up front and everything was going fine. Lots of things can go wrong and today they did.”
The restart with 76 laps remaining was when many Chase drivers saw their chances at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship flash before their eyes. Once the green flag flew, Austin Dillon on the front row was unable to get up to speed, and Martin Truex, Jr. made contact with the rear bumper of his car, sending Dillon sailing into the inside wall with a hard impact. As the field checked up to avoid the incident, another 10 cars were collected. The accident resulted in NASCAR throwing the red flag.
“I am fine, it just sucks,” Dillon said. “We will have to work hard the next two weeks to get the points back. I felt like I got to third gear pretty clean and then the next thing – I feel contact and I am spinning through the grass. It’s part of it and we took two tires there and you know the risk when you get into it. You just hope that doesn’t happen obviously. I got to third without spinning the tires, and I felt like we got contacted. We will just go on to next week.”
Chase contenders involved in the multi-car accident included Dillon, Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Chase Elliott, and Kurt Busch. Those who could not continue following the incident included Dillon, who finished 32nd, and Elliott, who finished 33rd.
“No, I think the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) spun his tires,” Elliott said. “I think they put on just two tires. I think the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was trying to push him and ended up getting him out of shape and then I think the 18 didn’t see it and ended up getting into me. I tried to get off the brakes and get down to keep that from happening but definitely unfortunate. We had such a good car and I am devastated that we didn’t get the result that the guys deserved.”
Finally, on lap 309, the caution was thrown for the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin going up in smoke as the engine expired. He finished in the 30th position.
“Just an engine failure there,” Hamlin said. “We hadn’t had one in a long time with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Toyota. It’s just my time and it’s usually Chase time when I have these things happen. Tough break obviously. Had a good car and we’ll have to go to Kansas and get a good run there and do everything we can to advance.”
Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson currently leads the points standings in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by five points over Matt Kenseth. With Sunday’s win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The drivers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series return to the track next Sunday at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400. Coverage will be found live on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2:15 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images