Atlanta was looking to be the next track to be taken over by another Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, plus the first caution free race almost occurred since Talladegaback in 2002. Thanks to a major miscue on pit road, Chevrolet took advantage of the situation and Jimmie Johnson led the way after the final green flag pit stop. WhileKevin Harvick led the most laps with 131, Johnson pitted nine laps before the last green flag pit stop. Since then, Jimmie took the lead with 40 laps to go and never looked back.
Jimmie won his fifth Atlanta race and his second straight Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500. Not only that, he ties Dale Earnhardt for the seventh most wins in Sprint Cuphistory with 76. When Jimmie led with over 13 seconds over the number 4 car, Harvick cut the lead to under six seconds until Ryan Newman blew a tire and forced overtime with two laps to go. Jimmie’s tires were wearing as the race went, but was able to pit and hold on thanks to a multi-car crash.
The win may not have been possible if not for a major violation on pit road. Matt Kenseth led for 47 laps after the second green flag pit stop until NASCAR black flagged the number 20 for improper fueling. The fuel man handed one of the crew members a wedge adjuster while fueling, which was against NASCAR rules. When Kenseth was black flagged, crew chief Jason Radcliff was arguing with a NASCAR official and failed to acknowledge him. When Kenseth didn’t respond, he was given the white cross which would not score him.
Kenseth finally served his pass through penalty, but was penalized another lap for not responding to the black flag in time. He finished in 19th two laps down. It’s the second straight major miscue Kenseth was a part of since being bumped for the lead at theDaytona 500 last week. Kenseth was no doubt upset about the lack of communication from his crew chief, and rest assured this story may be far from over as far as owner Joe Gibbs is concerned.
The mishap no doubt put Hendrick back into the fray as three of them finished in the top 10. With Kurt Busch finishing fourth from the pole, it put three Chevrolets in the top five, with Dale Earnhardt Jr finishing second. There were six total Chevrolets in the top 10 with Harvick taking seventh and rookie Chase Elliott with his best finish so far in eighth.
Toyota still had a great run in the process. Kyle Busch score his second straight third place finish after starting from the rear for his qualifying time being disallowed, and Carl Edwards his second straight fifth place finish. Martin Truex Jr showed a lot of promise staying in the top five for most of the race, but had to settle for seventh. Johnson and Denny Hamlin are now in the Chase, as Kyle now holds the points lead heading into Las Vegas.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Bryan Law