Jimmie Johnson keeps making history in Atlanta. His win in the the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at AMS is his fifth win and second straight at the 1.54- mile track, to tie him with Dale Earnhardt on the all-time list.
“It’s such an honor,” said Johnson, who now has 76 wins. “With the chaos at the end and the crash and wondering about overtime and how it worked these days, I kind of lost sight of that.
“I remembered it on my victory lap coming down, and I had to come by and throw a ‘3’ out the window to pay my respects to the man. There’s a huge void in my career that I never had a chance to race with him, but at least I was able to tie his record.”
A gutsy call by crew chief Chad Knaus on the timing of the last pit stop gave Johnson a chance to grab the lead.
Johnson pitted seven laps before the leaders Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. Then it became a waiting game to see if Johnson’s tires would fall off enough for anyone to catch him.
“We raced our way up to the top four or five and just kind of managed that position all day long,” Knaus said. “We needed to figure out a way to get to the front. You could just see it, around 40 laps, everybody wanted to pit. Everybody was getting nervous about their tires.
“As we were going through the race, ours was getting better, so we were like, ‘Shoot, let’s go ahead and throw it out there and see what happens.’ It worked out.”
Harvick made some inroads as the laps ticked off, but was still more than five seconds off Johnson’s pace when Ryan Newman blew a tire and brought out just the second caution of the race with three laps left.
It gave Johnson and Harvick a chance for four fresh tires on identical 11.1-second pit stops.
Harvick, who led 131 of the 325 laps, spun his tires and Johnson shot to the front when the green flag dropped. Dale Earnhardt Jr. jumped up from fifth to give Hendrick Motorsports the 1-2 finish.
“I loved it,” Earnhardt said. “We were sliding around and driving the hell out of the car. I had a blast.
“I post old pictures online all the time of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s and that’s when racing was racing. That’s when it was good. That’s what they saw today.”
Drivers ran for 210 laps before the first caution, obliterating the old record at Atlanta. In the last 16 Cup races there, they had never made it past lap 40 without the yellow flag coming out. In the last decade, three races haven’t made it five laps without a caution, including the 2005 spring race in which there was a 10-car pileup on the first lap.