Tonight in Darlington, South Carolina at the Bojangles’ Southern 500, Jimmie Johnson was victorious, making this his 56th win and the illustrious 200th victory for Hendrick Motorsports. The Hendrick teammates have been trying to win number 200 since Johnson’s last victory in Kansas, 16 races ago.
With a late race caution setting the ending in a win or lose it all for Johnson and the #48 teammates, in the Green-White-Checkered ending, it seemed as the odds were mounting against the #48 team, as they appeared to be short on fuel and tires, pitting under caution for the last time with 69 laps remaining. Johnson was saving fuel under the following caution 10 laps later when he was shutting off the motor, Chad Knaus at that time told Johnson to save fuel as they were 3 laps short at that time, 9 laps later under caution again, Knaus went on to tell Johnson on the radio that they made their bed and had to lie in it.
Johnson had Tony Stewart starting in second, on the inside, Kyle Busch in third, behind Stewart, and Denny Hamlin in fourth, on the outside behind Johnson, all but Stewart had led laps this evening. But Stewart who had been getting stronger all evening looked as if he was ready to pounce, at a track he has never won at before. As the green flag wove for the last time, Stewart had trouble that held up Busch and Hamlin, as Johnson soared to the front, and no one could catch him as he drove off to the finish.
Johnson said, while standing next to his car in victory lane, “This race is so special so great, Darlington is an awesome race track…tomorrow is going to be a nice day to chill out and savor this great victory.”
Johnson led the most laps of the night at 132 of the 368 laps, including the final 44. This was Johnson’s third Darlington win, the first since he swept the events at the track in 2004, the last season “The Lady in Black” had two Sprint Cup races.
Greg Biffle, the pole sitter, was strong during the start of the race leading for 74 laps, but faded as darkness set over the track and finished twelfth.
The race had the longest green flag stretch of racing from the start, when the first caution of the night came out on lap 172, since NASCAR began releasing that information in 1972. Once the first caution came out a slew of cautions followed, for the remaining 196 laps, averaging a caution every 24 laps.
Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five. The race featured 23 lead changes among 9 drivers, with 8 cautions for 38 laps with an average speed of 133.811mph.