BRISTOL, Tenn. – Saturday night under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson led his teammates to the checkered flag at “The Last Great Coliseum.”
He drove the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS to an 11th-place finish after starting the race in 21st.
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates – Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – finished 18th, 23rd and 24th, respectively.
Kyle Busch won the race.
Johnson finished both Stage 1 and Stage 2 inside of the top 10, utilizing a strategy play by the No. 48 team to keep Johnson off of pit road during a caution late in the second segment to help earn a runner-up spot and nine extra points before the final segment began.
He ran inside the top 10 throughout much of the final 250 laps, and after pitting for four fresh tires during a caution on Lap 416, he battled from 13th all the way up to sixth with 40 laps to go. He lost his top-10 position with less than 10 laps to go, however, to earn the 11th-place result.
Elliott drove the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS into the race lead for two laps in Stage 1 before finishing the segment in fourth. He narrowly missed a second consecutive top-10 finish in Stage 2, taking the green checkered flag 11th.
He quickly re-entered the top five in the final segment, however, and continued to run near the front of the pack until there were slightly more than 100 laps remaining. Then, Elliott and a competitor made contact that sent the No. 24 Chevy spinning toward the inside wall. The team worked quickly to make repairs and Elliott returned to the track down just one lap in 20th.
When a caution flag waved shortly thereafter, Elliott was the beneficiary of the free pass to get back on the lead lap. He stayed in 20th as the laps wound down, and even after finding 18th place, he was passed by the leaders during an extended green-flag run to finish the race one lap down.
Earnhardt began Saturday night’s race in 31st in the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, but he was already flirting with the top 20 inside Stage 1. When he stayed off of pit road during the final caution of Stage 2, he restarted fifth with just six laps to go in the segment. On older tires, however, he fell back in the pack and finished the stage in 19th.
Despite holding that position early in the final segment, he fell a lap down during a long green-flag run with fewer than 200 laps remaining. He continued to work his way toward the lucky dog position in order to gain a free pass back onto the lead lap, but it never came to fruition and he eventually fell two more laps down before taking home the 23rd-place finish.
Despite qualifying third, Kahne started Saturday night’s race from the rear of the field due to an unapproved tire change after the No. 5 team found an issue with a tire after qualifying.
He battled his way inside the top 20 midway through Stage 2, but when a multiple-car incident occurred ahead of him, Kahne’s No. 5 Rated Red Chevrolet SS sustained damage. Kahne made contact with a competitor ahead of him while checking up and hit the outside wall, forcing him to make multiple trips to pit road under caution.
That put him in 27th at the end of Stage 2, off of the lead lap. He pushed forward as many positions as possible, finding 24th with 75 laps to go. That is where he would finish, three laps behind the leaders.