Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
Jimmie Johnson held off the No. 4 Red Bull Racing Toyota of Kasey Kahne on a green-while-checker restart and through the final two laps of the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. Johnson drove his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into victory lane for only the second time this season.
We’ve got a very strong group of guys, and we’ve been knocking on the door.
“We did our job today,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a very strong group of guys, and we’ve been knocking on the door. We’ve been beaten at times and we’ve beaten ourselves at times.”
The win was the 199th Sprint Cup victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
Kahne finished second, and Brad Keselowski was third in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.
Greg Biffle started on the pole in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, with his teammate Carl Edwards alongside in the No. 99 Ford on the front row. Johnson claimed the lead for the first time in the race on a restart after a caution that came out on lap 20. He was the first off pit road and on the restart got by the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford of Travis Kvapil who did not pit.
Biffle retook the lead on lap 65, but Johnson was back up front on lap 85. By lap 120, Johnson had built up a lead of more than four seconds.
Johnson led most of the rest of the race, with the exception of cycles of green-flag pit stops and during cautions when a few drivers would stay out for track position. But each time, Johnson quickly made his way back up to the front.
“I’m just really happy with the way the team’s clicking right now,” No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus said.
Kahne took four tires on a pit stop during a caution that came out for debris with 29 laps remaining. Keselowski and Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota stayed out to restart first and second, and several front-runners, including Johnson, took only two tires.
Johnson got by Hamlin and Keselowski in a matter of just a few laps and Kahne made his way toward the front and took the second spot with 10 laps to go. A caution that came out in the closing laps when the engine expired on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon. This set the race up for a two-lap sprint to the finish with Johnson and Kahne side-by-side for the restart.
Johnson was able to get out in front of Kahne on the restart by a couple of car lengths en route to the checkered flag. Kahne, meanwhile, had to settle for being the highest-finishing non-Chase competitor.
“Jimmie just beat me on the restart,” Kahne said.
Matt Kenseth finished fourth in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“I don’t think you can ever be disappointed when you finish in the top-five,” Kenseth said. “Overall, it was a good day for us. I feel like we were off all day and were still able to come home with a top-five, so that was good.”
Edwards rounded out the top-five after losing a lap on the race track and then getting back on the lead lap under caution.
“I feel like we won,” Edwards said of his comeback during the race. “It’s a really, really big turnaround. We were just off in the beginning, but they (No. 99 team) worked hard all day and it paid off at the end.”
Edwards and Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, headed into Kansas tied for the championship points lead. Edwards is now in sole possession of first, with a one-point lead over Harvick, who finished the race sixth.