|Jimmie Johnson celebrates victory at Charlotte with his daughter.|
Credit: Jared Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images
CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson is back to his winning ways.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver captured the victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading 155 laps along the way. The No. 48 outlasted Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 during the final stretch and emphasized his organization’s somewhat sudden surge of power since the Chase began.
Johnson praised the day conditions for making the track easier to drive.
“I feel like the day conditions really helped us. The old track when it was Lowe's Motor Speedway, it was so worn out and so temperature sensitive, so difficult to drive, and this track is slowly moving back that way,” he said. “Whatever asphalt they put down, it's going to last 100 more years. This stuff just isn't changing. Yeah, I think the sun definitely helped our kind of style today.”
Eight cautions marred the day, making restarts key moments. Johnson felt that the yellow flags fell the No. 48 team’s way once they gained track position.
“Once we got some track position, the car drove great," he said. "Restarts seemed to be very important and being able to control the race. Then we led so many laps, at first it's like, yeah, we've got this, then you start thinking, well, the driver that leads the most laps typically doesn't win. Cautions fell our way in a sense.”
The race – which is typically run at night – took place Sunday afternoon due to weather conditions caused by Hurricane Matthew. This led to unintentional chaos, with multiple championship contenders dealing with a slew of problems.
Electrical issues sidelined Kevin Harvick early on, while Joey Logano got into the wall twice. They finished 39
th 36 and ,
respectively. Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon ended up in the garage after
Martin Truex, Jr. th Dillon a little too hard on a restart. Both ended
their days early and with disappointment. However, no one could be as
disappointed as Denny Hamlin, who blew an engine while chasing down Johnson. The
next two weeks are vital bumped to these drivers if they want to remain in contention
for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series championship.
Next on the schedule is Kansas Speedway. While competitors like Truex and Kenseth are bound to shine, the handful of desperate drivers will make themselves known. However, the field can’t forget about the No. 48. Johnson is confident his team can build upon this victory – and prepare to fight for the championship.
“We have to take it one day at a time and one race at a time, and I still feel like we can bring better cars to the racetrack,” Johnson said. “Right now we've hit on some things and we still have more ideas and we feel like more opportunity ahead of us.”