DOVER, Del. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson sped off on the final restart and earned another slice of NASCAR history, winning at Dover for the 11th time and moving into a tie for sixth on the career victories list.
Johnson again made an impact Sunday at his favorite track — and he worked hard to take this checkered flag. He was forced to start from the rear of the field because of a gear change, then zipped past Kyle Larson in overtime on the final restart.
Johnson tied Hall of Fame driver Cale Yarborough for sixth on the career wins list with 83.
“Cale you’re the man,” Johnson said.
Johnson may have had a sense history was ahead in the No. 48 Chevrolet. He wore a helmet painted in tribute to Yarborough. He tweeted this weekend, “Growing up in El Cajon I never imagined I would have a chance to tie Cale in wins.”
Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion, has racked up a Hall of Fame resume all with team owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus. He plopped his helmet on top of the Chevy in victory lane and put on a throwback No. 28 Hardee’s Chevrolet Yarborough hat.
“I remember going to a race in Oklahoma with my parents, my brother, we’re driving across the country and we pull into a Hardee’s,” Johnson said. “I had no idea it was a burger stand. I really thought when I walked in the door that I was going to Cale Yarborough’s race shop. I was very disappointed. I had a burger and left and understood the world of sponsorship.”
The 78-year-old Yarborough is one of two drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive championships.
Johnson is on a drive for a record eighth. With more wins like this one, Johnson just may get there.
Larson was second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott. Truex won the first two stages on the 10-year anniversary of his first career Cup victory, also at Dover.
Larson had his second win of the season in his grasp until he spun the tires on the restart.
“Jimmie’s the best of our time,” Larson said. “Probably the best of all time.”
There was a multi-car wreck on the final lap that brought the race under caution, but Johnson had hit the line needed to make the race official and he coasted to the finish.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and also won races in 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Johnson also joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (Martinsville-15, North Wilkesboro-15, Richmond-13, Rockingham-11) and Darrell Waltrip (Bristol-12, Martinsville-11) as drivers to win 11 races at a single track.
Here are some other happenings from Sunday’s race:
Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota lost a tire as it exited pit road on the first stop. Busch, who started from the pole, suffered damage to the left rear fender when the wheel became dislodged. Busch’s crew chief could face major penalties for the detached wheel.
Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all made early exits. Busch got loose and connected with Keselowski in the first stage with both runners inside the top five. Keselowski smacked the wall and went straight to the garage. Busch continued with heavy damage until he retired following another wreck about 30 laps later.
Keselowski finished 38th a week after he also wrecked out of the Coca-Cola 600 and was 39th.
“I don’t know if it was Kurt’s fault, just one of them racing deals,” Keselowski said. “We line-up double-file and somebody got loose and just took us out. What a bummer.”
NASCAR heads to Pocono Raceway for the first of its two stops at the triangle track. Kurt Busch is the defending race winner.