Johnson wins as five Chase contenders stumble
Jimmie Johnson returned to winning ways at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday, taking first in the Bank of America 500.
The win is important for Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports for several reasons. It was Johnson's 78th career victory, but, more importantly, it clinches him a spot in the next round of the Chase - the first time the six-time Sprint Cup champion has advanced past the round of 12 under the new postseason format.
It also snaps a 24-race winless streak. It's Johnson's third win of the season, but first since March at Auto Club Speedway.
But while Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick team are celebrating, five Chase contenders left the race track facing trouble.
Joey Logano had tyre issues and smacked the wall twice and finished 36th. Kevin Harvick (38th) was forced to withdraw due to an unclarified issue with his vehicle, hurting the 2014 Sprint Cup champion's hopes of winning the series title this year.
Austin Dillon was running second during a restart on lap 259 when he got bumped from behind by Martin Truex Jr, sending him hard into the inside wall and a 32nd-place finish. Chase Elliott (33rd) also got snared in that same multi-car crash.
Finally, Denny Hamlin was running in the top five when his engine blew up on lap 309. He finished 30th.
All five drivers find themselves in danger of falling out of the Chase's Round of 12. Next up is Kansas Speedway, followed by the elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Johnson won't have to worry about that race now, as his victory assures him a spot in the next round. He told NBC Sports after the race it feels great to end his run without a win.
"I just knew it was taking way too long," Johnson said. "This is something really special for our team.
"It wasn't fun for us to experience what we've been through."
Bank of America 500 top 10
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Kasey Kahne
4. Ryan Newman
5. Kyle Larson
6. Kyle Busch
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Kurt Busch
9. Tony Stewart
10. Jamie McMurray