Jimmie Johnson took a big step toward a seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title on Sunday, winning the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Hendrick Motorsports veteran led for more than 150 laps and survived a race filled with incidents.
Heavy rains meant the race got moved to Sunday and took place without any practice sessions. A major crash with some 100 laps to go decimated the pack, taking out several Round of 12 contenders.
With two more races left in the Round of 12, those who survived Sunday's carnage find themselves in an excellent position to advance to the Round of 8.
Here's a look at the results from Sunday's race:
|Bank of America 500 Results: Top 10|
|Pos||Driver||Time Behind (Seconds)||Laps Led|
|1||No. 48 Jimmie Johnson||Leader||154|
|2||No. 20 Matt Kenseth||1.474||5|
|3||No. 5 Kasey Kahne||2.949||0|
|4||No. 31 Ryan Newman||3.788||1|
|5||No. 42 Kyle Larson||4.380||0|
|6||No. 18 Kyle Busch||4.918||1|
|7||No. 2 Brad Keselowski||7.228||0|
|8||No. 41 Kurt Busch||8.492||0|
|9||No. 14 Tony Stewart||9.790||0|
|10||No. 1 Jamie McMurray||9.981||0|
The current Chase standings:
|Sprint Cup Standings|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||3028||4|
As NASCAR's official Twitter account shared, the start was clean, and the track looked remarkably good given the horrid weather conditions of the last few days:
Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing took the early lead ahead of Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports, and he quickly added to his lead, pushing it over two seconds within the first five laps. Kyle Busch followed closely behind after a great overtake out wide in the turn.
Elliott took the lead with a clever move up the inside, and the two continued their one-on-one battle, opening up a gap to the rest of the field.
Busch was able to bridge that gap and overtake Harvick for P2 just before Lap 20, however, with a competition caution coming on Lap 25. Per NASCAR writer Chris Knight, not everything was going the 31-year-old's way:
Harvick lost two more spots on the grid after the competition caution, while Elliott continued his impressive run. After 50 laps, he held a comfortable lead, per Fox Sports' Chase Wilhelm:
Casey Mears and Alex Bowman brought the yellow flag out again after some contact, with the latter suffering major damage to the front of his career and heading straight for the garage. Both eventually dropped out of the race.
There was even more drama on Lap 89, as Busch made a sudden and unscheduled pit stop to deal with a tire problem, per NASCAR's official Twitter account:
Joey Logano also made contact with the wall, bringing out yet another caution flag. Denny Hamlin took the lead on the restart ahead of Johnson. Despite leading for 101 laps, Elliott fell back to eighth place, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
Logano made a second trip to the garage along with Harvick before the midway point of the race, shaking up the Chase standings even further. Neither made it to the track in time for the restart.
At the midway stage of the race, Hamlin had his hands full with Johnson, while Logano and Harvick lost a lot of ground on the sidelines. Johnson worked his magic on Lap 177, while Elliott moved into third and soon passed Hamlin as well.
Johnson maintained his lead out of the pits, but debris soon caused another caution with just over 100 laps left. In-form Martin Truex Jr. took advantage of the restart to pass Elliott, and Gluck noted his name hadn't been called much on Sunday:
Tire failure remained a major issue and caused yet another caution when A.J. Allmendinger went into the wall, and a massive crash occurred on the restart, involving both Elliot and Truex. Here's a look at the incident:
Truex didn't appear to lift off and hit the slower Austin Dillon, causing the crash that took out multiple cars. Elliott was the most high-profile victim, as he seemed primed to take a ton of points into the second Round of 12 race.
Per Motorsport.com's Lee Spencer, Truex took responsibility for the incident:
The red flag was replaced by yellow after 12 minutes, but by the time the pack was allowed to race at full speed once again, only 70 laps remained.
Johnson started from the front and quickly settled back into his rhythm, maintaining his lead over Hamlin. The 35-year-old Hamlin then blew out an engine with less than 30 laps remaining as another Chase driver suffered a major setback.
Matt Kenseth overtook the veteran and held a narrow lead going into the final 20 laps, while Truex suffered a clutch issue during a pit stop, dashing his hopes of grabbing a win.
Johnson regained the lead with 15 laps to go and used his experience to finish the job, booking his spot in the Round of 8.
Per Fox Sports' Joe Menzer, Johnson never doubted he'd return to his winning ways:
No, I didn’t wonder, I just knew it was taking way too long. 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.
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. ... This is something very special to our team.
The Round of 12 will continue with the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, October 16. With just two races left before the cutoff, the likes of Dillon, Logano and Elliott could ill afford a bad finish, and their chances of winning the Chase may already be doomed.