Jimmie Johnson run away on a reboot 3 laps from the finish in the Southern 500 and held on Saturday night to give Hendrick Motorsports its 200th Sprint Cup triumph.
When Jimmie Johnson won Hendrick Motorsports’ 199th crew career win last October at Kansas Speedway, the perception was that the milestone victory was a few races away.
Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. teased team owner Rick Hendrick with seven combined top-three finishes this year – and the drought achieved 16 races.
But Hendrick got No. 200 when Johnson screamed out ahead of Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin on a green-white-checker finish to capture the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Saturday night at Darlington Raceway.
The race began with the longest stretch of green-flag racing from the start with 171 laps since NASCAR began releasing such information, a run which helped speed up a race that’s often slogged through double-digit cautions.
Johnson was fast all weekend and started the race from the outside pole. Top qualifier Greg Biffle took the lead at the start over Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Kasey Kahne, staying out front through the first 48 laps until he pitted under the green.
On Lap 231, a debris caution put Dale Earnhardt Jr. back on the lead lap and sent all the leaders back down pit road. Kahne had a terrible stop when his jackman slipped on pit road. That allowed Hamlin to take the lead on pit road over Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano.
On the restart, Biffle took the lead briefly, but slipped and nearly crashed at the exit of Turn 2, falling to fourth. He then began complaining of handling issues and fell back to seventh, as Hamlin and Truex led.
Last year’s champion, Regan Smith spun in Turn 4 on Lap 306, sending the track yellow again.
Johnson, Kyle Busch and seven others stayed out, while Truex and several other cars on the lead lap pitted, anticipating going the distance. Truex rejoined the race 11th, albeit on four fresh tires.
With 7 laps to go, Kurt Busch spun, taking Ryan Newman setting up one final shootout for the wining with two laps to go.
An incident involving Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman set up the two-lap overtime finish. Busch made contact with the wall several times before he spun around. Ryan Newman also lost control and turned around.
At the green, Johnson broke clean, winning easily as Hamlin passed Stewart for second. Kyle Busch finished fourth and Martin Truex Jr. was fifth. Series points master Greg Biffle ended up Twelfth.