Jimmie Johnson Heats Up Late To Win In Cold Atlanta


NASCAR Atlanta Auto Racing-1

Jimmie Johnson held off Kevin Harvick on the final restart with 13 laps remaining to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick led a race-high 116 laps but couldn’t keep up with Johnson in the late stages of the race. Johnson likely clinches a spot in the Chase for the championship with his 71st career victory and his fourth at AMS.

Johnson started in the rear of the field after not being able to make a lap in qualifying due to problems getting through tech inspection. Harvick qualified second but also had to start in the back because of an engine change. Neither of them had trouble getting to the front.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, Daytona 500 and pole winner Joey Logano ended up fourth, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.

Harvick won the XFINITY series race on Saturday and was trying to complete the weekend sweep. It would’ve been his first Sprint Cup Series win at Atlanta since his emotional win in 2001, when he won in his third career start as the replacement for Dale Earnhardt Sr., three weeks after his death at Daytona.

The unusually cold weather in Atlanta made the cars a handful to drive, and they were on edge for the entire race. Despite the loose conditions, the race was mostly trouble free until the last 100 laps.

Jeff Gordon ended  the second race of his farewell tour just like the first, in the garage after a crash. Denny Hamlin got loose and went around on lap 257, collecting Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman. Gordon cleared Hamlin but got clipped in the rear by McMurray, which sent him hard into the inside wall. Gordon hit a portion of the wall that wasn’t covered by SAFER Barrier, the same as Kyle Busch did when he was injured in the XFINITY race at Daytona. Gordon stared at the wall with his hands on his hips prior to entering the ambulance to show his frustration.

Gordon was making his final start at AMS, where he made his first career start 23 years ago, in which he also crashed. He struggled to find speed in his car all race long, hovering around 15th for much of the race.

A second “big one” happened on lap 306 of 325 and collected six cars. The race was red-flagged and cars were halted while the track was cleaned.

Johnson led the field to the final restart. He spun his tires slightly, but Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick were unable to take advantage, and Johnson drove off to a comfortable victory.

Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, Brett Moffitt, Brad Keselowski and Newman completed the top ten.

Top 16 standings after race 2 of 36:

NASCAR standings