Johnson makes big move to win at Atlanta

Amanda Vincent - NASCAR Wire Service Sunday, Mar 01 1491

Jimmie Johnson drove from the back to the front to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

"It (win) says a lot of good things," Johnson said. "I'm just so excited that the guys could understand. We have new guys, so this new team could understand what I was complaining about and things I didn't like about my race car. We thought we were a top 10 car last night. And I'm sorry to tell you earlier today that we weren't going to be that good, because we certainly were."

Kevin Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. with six laps to go to finish second. Earnhardt was third, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the top three.

"The Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet was good," Earnhardt said. "We qualified well. We haven't been good here in a long, long time. Several years, so (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys worked really hard. The communication is great and he's actually a pretty good cheerleader to be honest with you."

Johnson got off pit road ahead of Harvick during a caution with 74 laps to go. He then held off Earnhardt on a restart that followed an additional immediate caution to maintain his lead.

Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Brett Moffitt stayed out during a caution with 28 laps to go, shuffling Johnson back to fourth on the restart. As soon as the race returned to green, Johnson got up to second and then quickly retook the lead. Earnhardt and Harvick followed.

"Jimmie ran great today," Harvick said. "It was a lot of fun racing with him. It was a good race there as we got to the middle part of the race."

Harvick dominated the middle stages of the race after starting in the back because of an engine change. He was up to second on a restart following a lap-60 caution and then took the lead for the first time when he passed Joey Logano on lap 87.

Logano started on the pole and led all green-flag laps and a total of 83 before being overtaken by Harvick.

Kenseth short-pitted on lap 138 and, with a new-tire advantage for a few laps, was in the lead when the rest of the field cycled through stops a few laps later.

Harvick retook the lead, though, on lap 148. He then lost positions on pit road during a lap-175 caution, restarting third. After another caution, Harvick retook the lead on lap 190.

Johnson became the first driver to pass Harvick on the race track on lap 210, but Harvick came out ahead of Johnson during a cycle of green-flag stops with just over 100 laps to go.

"I had a blast racing with the No. 4 (Harvick)," Johnson said. "He was awfully strong today."

Ten cautions marred the race, with the 10th one leading to a red flag for clean-up following a multi-car crash involving Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Ricky

Stenhouse Jr., Regan Smith, Kyle Larson and Joe Nemechek with 21 laps to go.

Logano finished fourth and Kenseth fifth. Sixth through 10th were Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, Brett Moffitt, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman.
There was one other multi-car wreck with just under 70 laps to go involving Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Newman.

NOTES: The start of the race was delayed about an hour because of rain. ... Sunday's race was the first with the new 2015 rules package that includes decreased horsepower and an optional driver-adjustable track bar. ... Kevin Harvick won the Hisense 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Joey Logano finished second. ... David Ragan moved from Front Row Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing to fill-in for the injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 car, and Joe Nemechek climbed into Ragan's No. 34 seat at FRM. ... Team Xtreme and driver Travis Kvapil had to withdraw from the race after their race car, the enclosed trailer it was in and the truck towing it were stolen from an Atlanta-area hotel parking lot Friday morning. The car was found by police Saturday morning. The truck and trailer are still missing. ... An issue getting through inspection prior to qualifying on Friday resulted in 13 of 47 cars not making laps in qualifying. Drivers starting in the back because they didn't post times in qualifying included Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. ... Michael Annett also was among those not getting to qualify on Friday, causing him to not get a spot on the starting grid for his No. 46 HScott Motorsports car. He was able to work out a deal with Circle Sport Racing to replace Brian Scott in the No. 33 car and run the race anyway.