Jimmie Johnson won the second race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Season yesterday, the Fold of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leading a sweep of the podium for Chevrolet. Johnson secured the lead with 19 laps left, finishing ahead of fellow Team Chevy drivers Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Johnson took the lead following a late-race restart prompted by an eight-car pileup that put out a red flag with just 20 laps to go. When the race resumed, Earnhardt lurched into the lead, but he was passed by Johnson, who then fended off a hard-charging Harvick for the win.
The win marked the first time a Chevrolet has occupied all three spots on the podium since Martinsville in October of 2014. It didn’t come easy, with Johnson starting 37th on the grid and Harvick also starting towards the back. Harvick had qualified second, but was forced to start at the back after he blew an engine in practice, forcing an unapproved engine change. Despite the difficulties, Johnson, Harvick and Earnhardt led a combined 209 laps of the 325-lap race, 92 of which were Johnson’s alone.
“We had a great race car,” said Johnson following his fourth victory at Atlanta in six events. “Unfortunately the way qualifying went Friday, we didn’t have a good pit stall pick and it took us a long time to get in front of the No. 19 (Carl Edwards). Once we did that we were able to utilize our awesome pit crew, get the stops done, race for the win and get the job done today. I’m just very, very thankful. (The team) surprised me today. We weren’t that good yesterday and they really dug deep and figured out what I needed in this race car and gave me an awesome Lowe’s Chevrolet.”
Six Chevrolet drivers finished in the top 10, with Martin Truex Jr. in sixth, AJ Allmendinger in seventh and Ryan Newman in 10th. The final result was likely a relief for Chevrolet, who last week was forced to sit and watch Joey Logano and his Ford win the Daytona 500, completing a weekend sweep for the blue oval.
The next race of this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson currently sits second in the driver standings, down a single point from Logano. He’ll be looking to pull ahead of the Ford driver, both literally and figuratively, when the green flag drops in Las Vegas on March 8.