NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Jimmie Johnson Returns to Form, Wins Charlotte for 8th Time

While Chaser after Chaser got knocked out of Sunday’s Bank of America 500, it was Jimmie Johnson who prevailed to win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Leading a race-high 155 laps, Johnson grabbed his third win of 2016, first since Auto Club Speedway in March and eighth of his career at the 1.5-mile track.

“I feel like the day conditions really helped us,” Johnson said of the rain-postponed event. “I think the fun definitely helped our style today. The cautions fell our way. The [No.] 20 got ahead of us through the pits and I had a great restart to get back by him. At that point, I was feeling good about things.”

Finishing second was Matt Kenseth, who won the race off pit road and led the field to green for the final restart with 20 laps to go. Unable to match Johnson’s pace, Kenseth settled for a strong points day in the runner-up spot.

The same can’t be said for roughly half the 12-driver Chase field, who found problems at Charlotte. So many, in fact, the day will likely be remembered as the day the Chasers fell.

For the first time since 2007, five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse as tire failures, blown motors and hard wrecks narrowed the running order in the final 100 laps.

Kevin Harvick, dropping out of the race on lap 155, suffered a loss of power which relegated the No. 4 driver to 38th on the day.

“Things happen,” Harvick said. “I think the process of elimination [to find the issue], we’ve narrowed it down to a few things. I hate it for everyone on our Busch team.”

Joey Logano led three laps on the day,  but had tire issues.  First, he had a left-front tire go down.  Later on, he had a right-front tire go down.  Both failures resulted in wall contact with the second bringing the No. 22 behind the wall. He finished 36th, 80 laps down.

With these being single-car incidents, the major moment of the race occurred on a restart with 76 laps to go when Austin Dillon got turned by Martin Truex, Jr. in front of the pack. Slamming the inside SAFER barrier, Dillon joined Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott in the melee.

Elliott, leading a career-high 103 laps, finished his day in the 33rd spot, leaving him outside the cutoff following Race No. 1 of the Round of 12.

Completing the top 5 were three non-Chasers in Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson while Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray completed the top 10.

For Kahne, he joined his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a fast car, grabbing only his third top-5 finish of 2016.

“We had a good run,” Kahne said. “It’s a lot of people putting their heads together and that helped the No. 5 for sure.”

Danica Patrick missed out on her first top 10 of 2016 by 0.043 seconds, finishing in 11th, still her best result of the year. Michael McDowell earned a 14th-place run, his second top-15 in the last four races.

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