EditorsNote: Updates slug
Johnson earns 83rd career victory, ties Yarborough
DOVER, Del. -- When the yellow flag waved after the race field passed the restart line in overtime restart at Dover International Speedway on Sunday for a multi-car wreck involving about a dozen cars, the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race ended, and Jimmie Johnson became an 11-time Dover winner.
Johnson also tied Cale Yarborough for sixth on the Cup Series all-time wins list with 83 career trips to victory lane.
"I never thought I would end up here in NASCAR as a kid racing in the dirt out in Southern California," Johnson said. "I was a big Cale Yarborough fan, and I remember going to a race in Oklahoma with my parents and my brother. We were driving across the country, and we pulled up to a Hardee's. I had no idea it was a burger stand, and I really thought when I walked in the door I was going to Cale Yarborough's race shop. It was very disappointing. I had a burger and left, and then understood the world of sponsorship."
Johnson stood second to Kyle Larson, who dominated the race, on the final restart following the 15th yellow flag. As soon as the race returned to green, Johnson took the lead.
"He did what he had to do to get the best launch that he did," Larson said of Johnson. "We were both playing games a little bit. He just took off better than I did.
I wasn't really complaining about the restart. He did a good job. He's a seven-time champion for a reason. He's got a golden horseshoe somewhere, and he's really good at executing, so I've just got to get better at that.
"We had a dominant car all day. We had a couple of runs where we got off, maybe some bad tires or something, but we were able to rebound from those struggles."
Larson finished second, Martin Truex Jr. was third, Ryan Newman fourth and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.
"It needed to stay green there at the end," Larson said. "I was a lot better than Jimmie was. He just did a better job than I did on that last restart."
Johnson took his first lead of the race, having yet to pit under a green-flag cycle of stops when the yellow flag interrupted the cycle with 70 laps to go. He pitted during the caution and restarted the race in the third position while Ty Dillon restarted with the lead and Newman was in second.
"The conditions were really tough today," Johnson said. "I think everybody struggled with balance; corner entry was very uncomfortable for the cars. Mine was decent. Once I got to the top two or three, I just couldn't charge the corner hard enough to catch anybody and put a competitive pass on them. I got the restart of my life there at the end."
Larson took his final lead of the race with 38 laps remaining, and Johnson followed him by Dillon to take second.
Larson started the third and final 160-lap stage of the race with the lead after a two-tire stop and led the way until green-flag cycle of stops.
Truex won the first two 120-lap stages of the 400-lap race, with the second stage win of the day being his eighth stage win of the season.
After finishing second to Truex in the opening stage, Larson stayed out during the caution between the first two stages to inherit the lead. On lap 212, though, Truex retook the top spot. Larson lost a few more positions, so when the yellow flag waved on lap 217, he pitted for new tires while the other front-runners stayed out. As a result, he restarted 17th.
Larson got by Kevin Harvick to get back into the top five on lap 235 and finish the second stage in fifth. Jimmie Johnson was second at the end of stage two after starting the race in back. Matt Kenseth was third, and Kyle Busch was fourth after recovering from a wheel coming off his car under caution on lap 19.
Harvick and Johnson were third and fourth at the end of stage one.
Busch started on the pole and led the first 18 laps before losing his left rear wheel, turning the lead over to Truex.
Larson beat Truex off pit road to take the lead after both drivers took two new tires during the next caution that came out on lap 47. The two drivers made contact racing for the lead on lap 81, enabling Truex to retake the lead. Harvick and Johnson also got by Larson for second and third.
"I fought hard all race long," Larson said. "I felt like we were on defense the whole race. Even though I led a lot of laps, I felt like we were on defense. We'd be on two tires when everybody else was on four. Two left-side tires, I was able to lead a lot of laps."
Busch, like Larson, stayed out during the caution between stages one and two, and as a result, restarted inside the top five. Truex, Harvick and Johnson pitted and began stage two outside the top 10.
NOTES: Jimmie Johnson wore a special helmet honoring NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough in Sunday's race. Johnson started the race in the back because of an unapproved gear change. ... Toyota drivers won both Dover races in 2016, with Matt Kenseth winning last year's AAA 400 and Martin Truex Jr. winning the most recent race at Dover last October. ... The top four starters were Toyotas, with three of those being from Joe Gibbs Racing, led by pole sitter Kyle Busch. Joe Gibbs Racing still is searching for its first points-paying win of the season. Busch's previous pole led to his most recent win -- the 2016 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ... Kyle Larson dominated and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Dover on Saturday. Fellow Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez finished second and third, respectively.