Jimmie Johnson scored the victory in the rain-delayed Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to advance to the “Round of 8” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, his first time as championship contender. This is his third win of 2016.
“Really we just fell back on what we are made of at Hendrick Motorsports. There is a culture there and a belief. It was not fun to experience after all that we have been through but we have seen the cars get stronger, better and faster. We were able to execute all day long here. You were asking about that restart at the end and the track got so slick that I actually found that restarting on the bottom was a little bit better than what I had up top. I was able to throw it down to the inside of the 20 in turn three and make the pass, but restarts were really tricky today. I just really can’t thank everyone enough that supports us and for all the fans that were tuned in today,” said Johnson in a post-race interview about getting back into victory lane.
“Yeah, it was a great second. 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,” said second place finisher, Matt Kenseth.
The first half of the race started with drivers trying to get to the bottom of the track in an effort to feel out their cars. Before the competition caution, many drivers were complaining about ill-handling vehicles. After the competition caution fell, Chase Elliott set sail as the race leader. As the field hit lap 62, Alex Bowman, who was running top-five, but was in an accident with Casey Mears. Kyle Busch had a vibration on the right front tire; he was running second at the time. As a long green flag run became the norm, drivers were becoming more concerned with tires. As green flag stops were underway, Joey Logano hit the wall in the second turn to bring out the caution. As Elliott got caught under the last caution, Denny Hamlin prevailed as the race leader, and set sail in clean air. Kevin Harvick fell off the pace due to losing power bringing out the caution while Logano hit the wall again as the caution flew. Hamlin held the lead at the halfway point with Johnson, Keselowski, Elliott, and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top-five.
As the second half of the race began, Johnson tried to take the lead from Hamlin, but failed. The second half saw a dominate Johnson hold the lead. The caution came out for debris off of the fourth turn. On the restart, Johnson held the lead, but Elliott lost the lead to Martin Truex Jr. The caution flew for a hard hit into the wall by AJ Allmendinger as Elliott was trying to retake second from Truex Jr. On the restart, a huge crash occurred involving Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Menard. As the final pit stops were about to begin, the engine for Hamlin blew up. After the field hit pit road for the final time, Kenseth gained the lead. Truex Jr. stalled on pit road. Kenseth got loose on the restart giving Johnson the lead. However, Johnson was able to set sail on the field to win the race. Hamlin finished second, Kasey Kahne finished third, Newman finished fourth, and Larson rounded out the top-five.
In the first time since 2007 at Kansas, five chase drivers finished 30th or worse. Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Elliott, Logano, and Harvick all has issues in the race. Truex Jr. and Hamlin are the two drivers who are in the good in the Chase Grid heading into Kansas. Austin Dillon and Elliott are three points away from the cut off line, Logano is six points away from the line, and Harvick is eight points away from the line. All drivers were involved in accidents in Charlotte.
Johnson led the most laps in the Bank of America 500 at 155 laps. Elliott led 103 laps, Hamlin led 52 laps, Harvick led 12 laps, Logano led three laps, Bowyer led two laps, and Newman and Busch led one lap. There were a total of 17 lead changes among these nine drivers.
The average speed of the race was 134.929 mph. The time of the race was 3 hours, 42 minutes,, and 47 seconds. The caution flag flew eight times for 51 laps. The margin of victory was 1.474 seconds.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the “Round of 12” will be Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400. Motor Racing Network and NBCSN will have the call.