Written by Adrian Beecher
On lap 55, Kurt Busch got loose and hit the inside wall on the front stretch. This caused many cars to check up, which lead to Chris Buescher getting into the outside wall, ending his day early. Busch was able to get his Haas Automotive Monster Energy Ford machine fixed up and back out on the track in under 5 minutes.
On lap 67 NASCAR displayed the red flag to finish cleanup in turn 1 due to the leaking of oil from Buscher’s loss of his radiator. On lap 71 we got back to green flag racing with Larson still out in front and 11 cars getting a free pass to put 33 cars on the lead lap. After getting back to green flag racing, it was smooth sailing for mostly the entire field the rest of stage 1. The only exception to this was the #23 SunFrog.com Toyota of Gray Gaulding was given a penalty for being to too fast on pit road.
After leading 125 laps, it was Kyle Larson capturing the stage 1 victory as he continued to dominate. On lap 191 Larson got loose and almost spun out in turn two. However, he was able to save the car and maintain the lead with Logano and Truex Jr. riding hard in his rear view mirror just a few car lengths back.
On lap 203 Truex Jr. was able to make the pass and overtake the lead from Larson. Then just 7 laps later it was Kyle Busch in the #18 M&M’s Toyota bringing out the caution flag as he got into the wall in turn two as he lost a right side front tire due to a flat. On the restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got into the wall in turn 1 and 2 as he lost his air cooler and had to go behind the wall. They decided to retire the car, ending Jr.’s day.
As Stage two came to an end, it was Martin Truex Jr. in front taking the stage. After stage 2 it was Landon Cassil in the #34 CSX Play It Safe Ford out in front as they came to the green flag. However, it took just seconds before Martin Truex Jr. regained the lead from Cassill.
On lap 328 the #38 Jacob Companies Ford of David Ragan went inside of the Cassill out of turn two. This cutoff Danica Patrick in the #10 Mobile 1 Annual Protection Ford as they both spun out. This caused Patrick to go to the garage, ending her day. Ragan was able to get back out onto the track.
On the restart on lap 330, it was Joey Logano in the #22 Autotrader Ford out in front for the third time of the day. Then on lap 384, Kyle Busch got into the wall again, and he would go behind the wall and end his day for his 2nd DNF of the season. Logano maintained the lead on the restart on lap 389, with Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Lowes Chevrolet right on his back bumper. Then on lap 394, Johnson overtook the lead from Logano and started to pull away.
The next 25 laps were very intense with Jimmie Johnson battling with Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Logano battled for the lead. The #48 of Jimmie Johnson would maintain the led until lap 422 when Erik Jones in the #77 Sports Clips Toyota and AJ Allmendinger in the #47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet got together.
Out of the restart, it was Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the lead. A speeding penalty on pit road had forced Kyle Larson to go to the back of the pack on the restart. Just 3 laps into the restart, it was Jimmie Johnson regaining the lead from Hamlin on lap 433.
Our 9th Caution of the day came out when Paul Menard spun out in turn 4 trying to avoid Kasey Kahne on lap 463. Then in the pits, it was Truex Jr. too fast coming off pit road as he passed Jimmie Johnson coming out of the pits entering turn 3. This would put Truex Jr. on the back of the lead lap cars on the restart.
Kevin Harvick elected not to pit during the caution and took over 1st place as the field got restarted. Then on lap 480, Jimmie Johnson finally made a pass on Harvick after trying for multiple laps. Johnson would then pull away a bit as he rode his way to his 2nd ever win at Bristol Motor Speedway.
After a slow start to the season, it seems that Johnson is back in championship form,
“Just a really solid performance all day long, great pit stops. It was just very solid. Same Thing at Texas. I think that was the piece we were lacking to start the season. Don’t know why, don’t know what it was, but our cars have been very capable of running up front, and its been nice these last two weeks to execute front the start of the race qualifying. Was saved by the rain this week and spun out the week before. I spun out after I took the flag. We’re getting closer there, but the race itself, execution has been flawless, great race cars.”
This is Johnson’s second consecutive victory of the season as he won the last race at Texas Motor Speedway. It also marks his 82nd overall win in Cup Series racing. Now Johnson and the rest of the cup Series driver have their eyes set on Richmond International Raceway where they will compete in the Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday April 30th.