Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson captures Texas Victory

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

Photo by: Sarah Crabill

If there were any doubts about Jimmie Johnson’s winning ways before the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, they were put to rest at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson earned his first win of the 2017 season after starting from the back. A spin in qualifying caused the Lowe’s Chevrolet team to change tires before making his 550th career start.

“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it,” Johnson said. “I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day.”

Johnson led twice for a total of 18 laps toward the 81st victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Johnson retook the lead on Lap 318 after a debris caution allowed for the No. 22 of Joey Logano to gamble.

Sunday’s race at Texas was the first since the repavement and reconfiguration that lowered the banking of the 1.5-mile track by four degrees.

Ryan Blaney finished 12th after a dominating performance that scored him two stage wins, but a mistake by the Wood Brothers Racing driver on pit road sent him rallying for positions.

“Not a bad day for us,” Blaney said, “It’s nice to win a couple segments, but I want to lead the last lap. That’s the lap I care about, but I thought we made a big gain today as a team.”

Blaney led a career-high of 148 laps before sliding through his pit box on Lap 301.

Kyle Larson extended the standings lead after a second place finish. Logano and Harvick finished third and fourth, respectively, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first top-5 finish of the year.

NASCAR returns to Bristol on April 23rd on FOX.

 

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Jimmie Johnson avoids trouble at Charlotte

Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

In a race in which the Chase drivers were inflicted by numerous setbacks throughout the Bank of America 500, Jimmie Johnson avoided disaster to earn his third win of the 2016 season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Johnson showed that his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet remain a contender in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, leading 155 laps toward the 78th victory of his career and the eight at this racetrack.

“We’re a brotherhood on this No. 48 team, and just so thankful for the friendship and the hard work. Same thing for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We’re really going to enjoy this.”

The hard work has landed them a Chase berth inside the Round of 8 for the first time since the playoff system was put in place in 2014.

“That is massive,” Johnson said, “I’m so happy about that. So happy to be in Victory Lane with (crew chief, Chad Knaus) this guy.”

Johnson’s win gives him a chance to continue to compete for a record-tying seventh career championship, one that did not seem within reach throughout the summer.

“We can’t sit back and celebrate too much on this,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to buckle down and get to work and keep advancing our race cars. But this does buy us a couple weeks of freedom.”

Johnson and his team may have found their breakthrough, but many teams weren’t so lucky. Five of the Chase contenders finished 30th or worse in the opening race of the second round in the Chase.

Joey Logano finished 36th after heavy damage from wall contact sent him to the garage for repairs, while Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin encountered engine trouble halted their race for good finishes.

Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon were caught up in a 12-car pile-up after the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr tapped the No. 3 Chevrolet, who gained track position after taking two tires, on the restart.

Elliott tried to make it through, but unavoidable contact with Kyle Busch resulted in him being turned into the outside wall.

Dillon and Elliott finished 32nd and 33rd, respectively.

Catch Elliott as he searches for redemption, and his first Sprint Cup victory, on October 16th at Kansas Speedway at 2:15 PM/ET on NBC.