It had been since November at Texas Motor Speedway when Jimmie Johnson last saw Victory Lane but he familiarized himself with the routine when he won Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The 2013 champion started the race from the pole and his determination didn’t waiver until he was the first to see the checkered flag. A late-race caution helped stack up the field and it was Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon at the point with 17 laps left in the 400-lap race. Kenseth was able to power to the front while Gordon slipped back and Johnson capitalized on Gordon’s change of track position.
Kenseth had a good lead on Johnson but that lead shrunk in a hurry and Johnson sewed up the race with nine laps to go. Kenseth would not be able to keep the second spot either with a charging Kevin Harvick. When Harvick restarted on lap 17, he shot past three cars within three laps to get to the third position – two of those would be in one lap. He would then stalk Kenseth for the second place spot which he got with two laps to go.
With this being Johnson’s seventh victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he is now the all-time series points wins leader at Charlotte Motor Speedway, breaking a tie with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
Kurt Busch was moving up the field in the Coca-Cola 600 after starting in the 42nd position. He had to start at the tail of the field as the result of a penalty. He missed the driver’s meeting, but he had a good reason – he was participating in the Indianapolis 500 where he came home sixth in his first showing in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t complete all 1,100 miles on the day as his engine gave up on lap 274. However, he did complete 912 miles.
Danica Patrick showed great promise in practices for the Coca-Cola 600 and showed even more with a third place qualifying effort, but that wouldn’t be the case Sunday night. Patrick’s day ended early after her engine let go on lap 286. She had been running on two less cylinders for quite a distance before coming to a smoking halt.
Kevin Harvick had another strong day as he led 100 laps. He looked as invincible as the superhero on the hood of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s Chevy. He certainly showed Superman-like determination as he would power past cars as if they were standing still on the track. He ended up in the runner-up position.
It looked like Martin Truex, Jr. would have a good night with a top-ten but his car experienced issues while Truex, Jr. was running inside the last ten laps of the contest. He fell outside the top 20 at the drop of the checkered flag.
Last week’s All-Star race winner, Jamie McMurray, looked strong in the middle of the race as he took over the race lead on lap 242 and stayed out front for just over 30 laps until a caution would mix up the starting order. He would come back to finish in the top ten.
Only eight cautions slowed down the pace in the 600-mile race with the first one on lap 108 for debris. Three cautions would result from debris. Only one caution resulted in multi-car accident when Marcos Ambrose spun on lap 236 which collected Danica Patrick, Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill and Josh Wise. No injuries were reported.
Jimmie Johnson now joins Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Gordon in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The top ten in the Coca-Cola 600: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski.
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be Sunday, June 1 at 1 p.m. ET for the FedEx 4000 Benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway (the Monster Mile).