TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jimmie Johnson became the new points leader in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after posting a 13th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS avoided being collected in a last-lap incident to take a four-point lead on Matt Kenseth with four races remaining in NASCAR’s postseason.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a runner-up result. He now ranks tied for first all-time with Tony Stewart with eight career second-place finishes at the restrictor-plate tracks of Talladega and Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Jeff Gordon finished 16th, while Kasey Kahne took 36th on Sunday.
Here is the race result by team:
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 36th.
Chase standings: 13th.
Race recap: Kasey Kahne lined up 29th after rain showers canceled Saturday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR officials set Sunday’s starting lineup based upon the speeds from the first practice session. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS was mostly quiet on the radio as spotter Kevin Hamlin guided him around Talladega’s 2.66-mile superspeedway. While the 188-lap event unfolded, Kahne ran as low as 40th and as high as first depending upon where he found himself in the draft. Kahne led Lap 47 during green-flag pit stops and subsequently found himself one lap down 25 laps later. He continued to race for the Lucky Dog position during the second green-flag stretch. But the lead lap battle was stalled for Kahne when he was caught speeding on pit road during green-flag stops. He had to complete a pass-through penalty before returning to the field. Kahne spent the remainder of the race rallying back through the field and crossed the finish line 36th.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 16th.
Chase standings: Fifth.
Race recap: Jeff Gordon started 20th on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway after Saturday’s qualifying session was nullified thanks to rain. The starting lineup for the sixth race of the Chase was set according to speeds set during the first practice session. Gordon initially was shuffled back to 33rd and opted to pit during the first caution for fuel. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS improved to lead the field once before making his green-flag pit stop on Lap 46. Gordon’s strategy was to hang back after leading a lap, so he made his stop for four tires and fuel, and retreated to the second pack. During the Lap 79 caution period, Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson decided to pit with one to go. The strategy helped Gordon from a fuel perspective, and he led another lap when green-flag stops began some time later. Toward the end of the race, Gordon joined in a pack and charged to the front. With 11 laps to go, the driver of the No. 24 Chevy SS was leading the middle pack of a three-wide charge. But track position was dicey, and Gordon was shuffled back to 23rd with nine laps left. Gordon improved to finish 16th.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 13th.
Chase standings: First.
Race recap: Jimmie Johnson lined up 11th after Saturday’s practice session was canceled because of rain. The starting lineup was set according to speeds from the first practice session. Johnson improved to seventh by Lap 28, and he told crew chief Chad Knaus his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS was running well. Johnson continued to run strong as the 188-lap event unfolded and finally took the lead on Lap 50, pacing the field for five circuits before shuffling with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Johnson pitted again during a Lap 79 caution period and again told Knaus he was having no issues with the No. 48 Chevy SS. On the Lap 84 restart, Johnson rolled off first with a push from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates contended with Matt Kenseth for a few laps before they were able to push by and take the top two spots. Johnson told Knaus the bottom line seemed to be stronger, and he tried to take advantage of that during the latter stages of the race. He 43 laps before pitting during the second green-flag stretch – Lap 118 -- for four tires and fuel. By Lap 132, Johnson was pacing the field once more. Yet as the race progressed, track position became trickier and Johnson was shuffled from among the leaders to within the top 20. The driver of the No. 48 Chevy SS rallied to finish 13th and take the lead in the postseason hunt.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Mountain Dew/Xbox One Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Second.
Chase standings: Sixth.
Race recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the fastest of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates during NASCAR Sprint Cup practice on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway and that translated into an eighth-place starting spot for the driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew/Xbox One Chevrolet SS when ran canceled qualifying. Earnhardt remained inside the top 10 as the race unfolded and first took the lead on Lap 48 during green-flag stops. After green-flag stops, Earnhardt continued to run among the leaders, pacing the field three times for eight circuits before the caution flag was waved on Lap 79. He stopped for four tires and fuel before returning to run second and help teammate Jimmie Johnson take the lead on the ensuing restart. Earnhardt was shuffled out once during the second green-flag stretch, but recovered and took the lead yet again on Lap 135. Earnhardt ran inside the top 15 for the remainder of the race and was tracking leader Jamie McMurray as the white-flag was waved. He held on to finish second and record his eighth career runner-up result at a restrictor-plate track. Earnhardt now ranks tied for first all-time with Tony Stewart with second-place finishes at the plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.