RICHMOND, Va. – In the final race of the regular season, Hendrick Motorsports left Richmond Raceway with all four drivers inside the top 13.
Jimmie Johnson led the way with an eighth-place result, followed by Chase Elliott in 10th, Kasey Kahne in 12th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 13th.
In the process, Elliott cemented his spot in the playoffs, joining Johnson and Kahne, who had already clinched their positions prior to Saturday night’s race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed to win in order to race his way into the postseason, and despite leading 13 laps late in the race, the No. 88 team’s strategy did not lead to Victory Lane and Earnhardt did not make the 16-driver playoff field.
Kyle Larson won the race.
Below is a closer look at how the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared Saturday night at Richmond.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 GREAT CLIPS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Starting 17th, Kahne utilized a great restart following the first caution of the race to jump from 16th to 10th. He finished Stage 1 in 13th, and he took the green-checkered flag in 14th at the end of Stage 2. In the final segment, he continued pushing toward the top 10. When a caution flag waved with approximately 150 laps to go, quick work by the No. 5 team allowed Kahne to gain two positions on pit road and restart ninth. He was one of the first cars to make a green-flag pit stop on Lap 322, returning to the track down a lap outside of the top 20. But by the time the full field had cycled through, Kahne was back on the lead lap and back inside the top 10 in 10th with less than 40 laps remaining. He had fallen back to 13th as the first car a lap down when a caution flag sent the race to overtime and gave Kahne a free pass back to the lead lap. He took home a 12th-place result in overtime.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Elliott began Saturday night’s race in ninth, and he used that position to pick up extra points in Stage 1 in ninth place. He fell just outside of the top 10 in Stage 2, finishing 12th, but got back to work in the final segment. He pressed toward the top 10 and found himself in 11th with 100 laps to go. He cracked the top 10 just before making a green-flag pit stop, and though he returned to the track outside of the top 20 down one lap, as the full field cycled through, he was back on the lead lap in 17th with less than 40 laps remaining. He continued to push forward as the laps wound down under green-flag conditions, finding 12th before a caution flag sent the race to overtime. In the extra frame, he moved into 10th before the checkered flag waved.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Rolling off the grid 20th, Johnson battled the handling of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS for much of the early portion of the race. He finished Stage 1 in 15th and continued pushing forward to finish Stage 2 in 13th. In the final segment, he maintained his top-15 position until there were a little more than 100 laps remaining, when he raced into 10th place. With less than 70 laps remaining, Johnson made a green-flag pit stop from inside the top 10. He returned to the track down a lap just inside the top 20, but as the full field cycled through he found himself back in 10th on the lead lap with less than 40 laps remaining. The green-flag racing continued until a caution sent the race to overtime with Johnson in ninth. He gained one more position in overtime to finish eighth.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Earnhardt took the green flag in 21st, but he quickly got to work Saturday night. At the end of Stage 1, he was knocking on the door of the top 10 in 11th. By the conclusion of Stage 2, he had raced his way all the way to seventh. Early in the final segment, he fell back to 10th, but when a caution flag waved with approximately 150 laps remaining, the No. 88 team put together a speedy pit stop to allow Earnhardt to restart back in seventh. That is where he was running with 100 laps to go, and 17 laps later he had made his way into the top five. On Lap 335, Earnhardt took over as the race leader as many competitors headed to pit road for green-flag pit stops. On old tires, he lost the lead on Lap 349 but stayed on the track as the No. 88 team hoped for a caution to help their strategy pay off, but the yellow flag did not come and Earnhardt headed to pit road from 10th place on Lap 356. He returned to the track down a lap in 20th. He gained as many positions as possible, finding 15th before a caution sent the race to overtime. He raced his way to 13th before the checkered flag waved.