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Anything that could go wrong did for Jimmie Johnson in the AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Johnson started the 325-lap event in 10th place but by lap 32 was tangled in the first of several unfortunate on-track events from which he was never able to recover. He finished 28th but kept the lead in the driver point standings. He is 28 points ahead of second-place Clint Bowyer, who had engine issues and retired early from the race.
The first incident for Johnson occurred after a competition caution on lap 25 brought the field down pit road. Three-time Atlanta winner Johnson (October 2004, March and October 2007) reported his No. 48 Lowe’s “Dover White” Chevrolet SS was loose. After coming down for service, he was lined up behind teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the restart when a competitor ahead of them spun his tires, bunching up the field and sending Johnson into the rear of Earnhardt’s car.
The crew made repairs to the Lowe’s machine, which received extensive damage to the splitter. But a competitor’s tire careened into the right front of Johnson’s car on lap 75, causing even more damage and forcing him back to the pits for repairs. A late-race incident while Jeff Burton was attempting to pit derailed any chance Johnson had of making up substantial ground. He finished four laps down.
“Not the kind of day we were hoping to have, especially after the last two weekends,” said Johnson, who finished 36th at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last weekend and 40th at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn the previous weekend. “But we have one more race before the Chase starts, and we still have a chance to get this Lowe’s Chevy in victory lane.”
Kyle Busch won the AdvoCare 500 to score his 28th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his second at Atlanta.
Joey Logano finished .740 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 47 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 325-lap race.
With round 25 of 36 complete, Johnson continues to lead the Hendrick Motorsports contingent and the rest of the NASCAR field in the championship point standings. His 837 points put him 28 ahead of second-place Bowyer and 124 ahead of 11th -place Gordon. Earnhardt is seventh with 750 points, 87 out of first and 37 ahead of 11th. Gordon is 11th with 713 points, 124 out of first and six behind 10th. Kasey Kahne is 12th with 709 points, 128 out of first and 10 behind 10th .
Just one race remains before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kahne, who is 12th in points, has the first wild card via his two wins. Truex holds the second wild card as he is 13th in points with one victory. Newman is the only other driver between 11th and 20th with a victory.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.