Jimmie Johnson passed Kyle Larson on an overtime restart to roar to his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season Sunday at Dover International Speedway, tying NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough on the all-time win list.
Johnson led just twice for seven laps in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism, his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet taking the checkered flag under caution as a multicar crash ended the race on its lone overtime attempt. Johnson’s 11th win at the 1-mile track was the 83rd of his career in NASCAR’s premier series.
“To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing,” Johnson said of Yarborough, a three-time series champion who retired after the 1988 season. “We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport.”
Johnson started from the back of the pack after his Hendrick Motorsports team made an unapproved pre-race gear change on the No. 48 Chevrolet, but rallied to lead in the late going.
The final restart denied Larson, who led six times for a race-high 241 laps but was saddled with second place. A yellow flag for David Ragan’s crash with four laps left in regulation erased Larson’s late lead, bunching up the field and eventually sending the race six laps past its scheduled 400-lap distance.
Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet struggled to get going on the final drop of the green, bumped from behind by rookie Ty Dillon’s No. 13 Chevrolet. He held on to finish second for the fifth time in 13 races this season.
“Obviously I didn’t need that last caution,” Larson said. “Yeah, I mean, Jimmie is the best of our time, probably the best of all time. He just has obviously a lot more experience than I do out on the front row late in races and executed a lot better than I did. I’ve got to get better at that and maybe get some more wins.”
Martin Truex Jr. led three times for 102 laps, but was shuffled back after a Lap 343 caution flag fell during a pit-stop cycle. The series points leader rallied to finish third in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota. Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott completed the top five.
Dillon, who rose into contention with a timely late caution period, led 27 laps and was poised for his first career top-five finish in the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet. But Dillon spun on the backstretch in the close-quarters racing to the finish, with several cars stacking up behind him.
Truex added to his stockpile of playoff points by winning the first and second stages, running his season total of stage wins to eight — most in the series.
Several pitfalls flared up early, with five yellow flags in the opening 120-lap stage. Pole-starter and early leader Kyle Busch was among the first snared by issues, leaving pit road without his left-rear wheel properly attached. After an extra pit stop to replace the errant wheel and repair fender damage on the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota, Busch recovered to race into the top five.
Busch later made an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel with 38 laps left. He wound up 16th.
A Lap 65 crash derailed Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch, both former Dover winners. Kurt Busch lost control racing alongside Larson on a restart, forcing Keselowski’s Team Penske No. 2 Ford into the outside wall. Keselowski was done for the day in 38th place, finishing next to last for the second straight week. Kurt Busch continued with damage, but was sidelined 30 laps later by a more severe solo wreck that left him with a 37th-place result.