Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson tied NASCAR all-time great Cale Yarborough for career victories Sunday at Dover International Speedway. The victory was the third of the season for Johnson, and eleventh overall win at Dover (most all-time) for the seven-time series champion as the career milestones keep adding up for the 41-year-old.
Johnson was able to gain the lead from Kyle Larson on a late-race restart. A small amount of controversy ensued following the event as several in attendance believed Johnson may have jumped the restart before the race-ending caution came out moments later. Ty Dillon started a huge wreck behind the leaders that brought out the final yellow flag that ended the race once it was determined that Johnson had indeed crossed the restart line in time to make the result official.
Larson dispelled any questions about a bad restart after the race. “Jimmie did what he had to do to get the best launch he needed to,” said Larson. “He just took off better than me. He’s the seven-time champion for a reason. He’s got a golden horseshoe or something. And he’s just better at executing. … I felt like we were on defense all day. I needed it to stay green there at the end. We were a lot better than Jimmie then. But he did what he had to do.”
Johnson began the race at the rear of the field after his Hendrick Motorsports team changed a rear gear Sunday morning. His number 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet had moved up to third by lap 90.
For Johnson, the victory marked his third win of the season in only thirteen races. It was also his 11th victory at Dover, which is the most by any driver in the 48-year history of the track itself.
“I never thought I would end up here in NASCAR as a kid racing in the dirt out in California,” Johnson said. “I was a big Cale Yarborough fan. To be here and to tie him at 83 wins is astounding. We just got the (special Yarborough) helmet; I wasn’t sure we’d get it in time. Cale, you are the man! This is an amazing day.”
Johnson is now tied with Yarborough at sixth all-time in NASCAR wins, he only trails Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison with 84, Jeff Gordon with 93, David Pearson with 105, and Richard Petty with 200. The way Johnson has been driving this year he’ll likely move another spot up the list before the 2017 season is finished. Already a seven-time series champion, Johnson is currently cementing his place in NASCAR history near the very top alongside the legends of the sport.
The first stage of the race saw Martin Truex Jr win his series-best seventh race stage, followed by Larson. Truex was in the lead for 69 of the 120 total laps. Kevin Harvick was third, with Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, and Daniel Suarez rounding out the top ten. For winning the opening state Truex was awarded a playoff point and ten bonus race points. Truex also won the second stage, with Johnson, Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Larson, Harvick, Chase Elliott, Blaney, Jones, and Kahne in tow.
In other news
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch had a left rear wheel come off his car after the first round of pit stops. The incident caused him to have to pit multiple times to fix the damage to his car. One of Busch’s jack men appeared to drop the car before the lug nuts on the wheel could be tightened. Per NASCAR rules, his crew chief, tire changer, and tire carrier are now subject to a “mandatory minimum” four-race suspension.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images]