Johnson prevails on final restart, ties Yarborough with 83 career wins
By Tyler Head
June 4, 2017
DOVER, Del.—The Monster Mile was as nasty as ever Sunday, knocking 12 competitors out of the race over the course of the race’s 406 laps. But like so many other times before, Jimmie Johnson had the Monster under control.
Johnson was trailing Kyle Larson with just a handful of laps remaining in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway when the Monster chewed up and spit out David Ragan, bringing out a race-changing caution.
On the overtime restart that followed, Johnson shot past Larson to take the lead; moments later, the Monster claimed several more victims in a large crash on the backstretch.
“I got the restart of my life there at the end,” Johnson said. “I was able to just beat the No. 42 through (Turns) 1 and 2 and I guess make it to that line on the back straightaway before the yellow came out.”
“That line” Johnson referred to is NASCAR’s Overtime Line. When the final caution came out, Johnson had already passed it, which meant the race was over and Johnson had tamed the Monster for an 11th time.
The win is the 83rd of Johnson’s career, tying Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth all-time. As it just so happened, Sunday’s race was the first in which Johnson piloted the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet while sporting a helmet honoring Yarborough’s legacy.
“To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing,” Johnson said. “We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport.”
Johnson needs only one more win to tie a pair of Hall of Famers–Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip–for fourth in all-time wins in NASCAR’s top series. The victory is Johnson’s third of 2017, which leads the series.
Larson led a race and career-high 241 laps, but was forced to settle for second after surrendering the lead to Johnson on the final restart. Larson, who also finished second in this event a year ago, said the seven-time champion’s experience is what beat him.
“Obviously, I didn’t need that last caution,” Larson said. “Jimmie is the best of our time, probably the best of all time. He just has obviously a lot more experience than I do out on the front row late in races and executed a lot better than I did. I’ve got to get better at that.”
Martin Truex Jr., who won both stage one and stage two of the event, finished third after leading 102 laps. Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.
Truex continues to lead the MENCS standings by nine points over Larson after 13 races. Truex also added two points to his playoff coffer with his stage wins Sunday. He has the most points in that category with 18, while Johnson is now second with 15. IMAGES Tyler Head/The Racing Experts SOURCES Racing-Reference.info