Jimmie Johnson lived up to his Superman moniker once again at Auto Club Speedway. momentarily
With the race going into overtime on Sunday, Johnson gained the lead on the white flag lap to win his sixth race at his hometown track and his second of 2016. (CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RACE RESULTS)
“Awesome teamwork boys, thank you so much,” said Johnson, who led 25 laps. “There’s nothing like winning at home,” Johnson said. “Someone get my damn cape.”
Kevin Harvick, who led 142 of 200 laps, appeared to be riding off into the California sunset until Kyle Busch hit the wall in between Turns 3 and 4 to bring out the sixth and final caution.
Denny Hamlin came out of the pits first followed by Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.
Harvick comes up short
When the race went green on Lap 203, Johnson pushed Harvick to the lead then took the bottom lane. Johnson held off Harvick coming to the white flag and extended his lead by 0.772-seconds at the finish.
“That sucks,” said Harvick, who posted his 20th second-place finish since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. “Just way too tight right there. Couldn’t put the throttle down. Wouldn’t turn.”
“That was the worst it has taken off on restarts, but we weren’t very good on restarts for four or five laps unless we were all by ourselves," explained Harvick. "The No. 48 was able to hang with us and we just weren’t able to drive it in like I needed to, just didn’t’ have the front tires turning and the back wouldn’t grip. Still a good day for us, just have to thank everybody from Jimmy John’s and Busch. We will keep at it.”
Hamlin, Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who restarted eight after the last caution, rounded out the top five.
The race was slowed by six cautions — the first three were tire-related issues. Chris Buescher and Kyle Larson had issues due to low air pressures in the left rear tire. Larson wrecked hard into the inside wall, sending his car airborne (VIDEO).
Trevor Bayne had a right rear tire blow out but his situation was due to knocking the fender in to the tire after getting into the wall. The fourth caution came out after Danica Patrick came up on Kasey Kahne entering Turn 1, slamming the outside wall and also getting up into the air momentarily (VIDEO). She was running 19th at the time put finished 38th. Kahne continued but finished 31st, one lap down.
Two laps after Johnson pitted, the fifth caution was called for debris. Although Johnson gained the point on the Lap 160 restart as the leaders stopped for service, Harvick regained the lead six laps later. With 19 laps remaining, Harvick held a second and a half lead over Carl Edwards but three circuits later, Kyle Busch passed him for second-place.
Although Busch had nothing for Harvick, he continued to push until he hit the wall on Lap 198 and set up the Auto Club 400 for a green-white-checkered finish.
“The caution kind of fell at a bad time when we hit pit road two stops from the end," said Johnson after scoring the win. I just didn’t have anything for those guys on a lap or two fresher tires. We got a little disappointed in that, but still worked our way towards the top five. An amazing pit stop on pit road got me right there in contention.
"An awesome start with the No. 4 and myself getting going. I got a great run off of Turn 2 down the back and at that point I thought I had a good shot at it. I cleared him in (Turns) 3 and 4 and just had to bring it back at that point. We had our best at the last there and really strong on the short run which wasn’t necessarily our strong suit earlier in the day. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made some great adjustments there to get me tuned up for that dash at the end.”
Johnson surpasses Earnhardt
Johnson passed Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time win list with his 77th career Sprint Cup victory. Harvick maintained the points lead, however, Johnson moved up to second in the standings after Kyle Busch’s misfortunes led to a 25th-place finish.
Man, it’s hard to believe. I grew up out in the desert as a desert rat having fun and going to the river a little bit and having some fun over there too. To have those early childhood memories kind of shape me into the racer I am today and to be here in Victory Lane is pretty awesome.”
Chase Elliott was the top finishing rookie in sixth-place, followed by Edwards, AJ Allmendinger — who posted his first top 10 finish of the season — Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray, who also earned his first top 10 of 2016.
Harvick continues to lead the championship standings, 11 points clear of Johnson.