Jimmie Johnson Extends His Auto Club Speedway Record With Sixth Auto Club 400 Victory and Claims 77th Career NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Win

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FONTANA, Calif. – Driving in the Superman car and donning the Superman cape in the winner’s circle, El Cajon, Calif. native Jimmie Johnson furthered his unmatched legacy at Auto Club Speedway in his Southern California homecoming.

Johnson (No. 48, Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet) drove to his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race win at Auto Club Speedway – three more than any other driver – by claiming the checkered flag at the 20th-Annual Auto Club 400 on Sunday.

Johnson won his first Sprint Cup race in his career at Auto Club Speedway in 2002, and grabbed his other four wins on Auto Club Speedway’s two-mile oval in a six-race stretch from 2007-10. His five runner-up finishes at ACS are also a record.

“There’s just nothing like coming back to SoCal,” Johnson said. “It’s very special. Many friends that I didn’t expect to see here this weekend, didn’t even know they were coming to the race, I ran into. Others, it’s my one time of the year to see them and hang out. I even ran into a cousin that I didn’t even know was going to be here until last night. Fortunately, as I was running to driver intros, I ran into her. It’s great to be close to home. When we come to a track like we have here, an old surface, it’s so much fun to drive the race car."

In winning his second Sprint Cup race in the 2016 season, the 40-year-old Johnson earned his 77th career Sprint Cup triumph, leaving Dale Earnhardt in his rear view mirror as he moved into seventh place on his own on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.

“I feel like, physically and mentally, I’m the best that I’ve ever been in my career,” Johnson said. “It makes me want to stick around and do this for a lot of years. I’ve been very, very fortunate to win 77 of these things, which blows my mind. I would love to just keep on going and just win, win, win. I know there’s some more legends just ahead of me in this sport and I look forward to getting a chance to get up there and honor them as well and join them with the amount of wins.”

Starting on the inside of Row 10 in the 39-car field, Johnson led the race for 25 laps and benefitted from what turned out to be Kyle Busch’s kryptonite this weekend at Auto Club Speedway – his tires.

Johnson was running 15th when defending Sprint Cup champion and three-time Auto Club 400 winner Busch (No. 18, M&M’s 75 Toyota) blew a tire on lap 200, prompting the race’s sixth and final caution flag.

"I really felt from the midpoint of the race on, we were one of the top two or three cars and the longer the run went, the better we were,” Johnson said. “Kyle had more unfortunate luck there with the tire and it set up that final caution and pitstop. My guys just crushed the pitstop. That restart, those two laps, whatever Chad did with tire pressures and adjustments on that last stop, the car was incredible. I got a great launch out of the bottom of Turn 2. I realized I got a shot at this thing, which I didn’t expect to have. At that point, I felt pretty good about bringing it home with just one lap to go. We saved our best for last.”

The final caution and Johnson’s ensuing pitstop allowed Johnson to position himself near the front of the pack on the restart on lap 204, where he passed Kevin Harvick (No. 4, Jimmy John’s Chevrolet) for the white flag and held him off for the checkered flag on lap 205. Denny Hamlin (No. 11, Sport Clips Toyota) finished third.

“I think we were probably going to settle in about fifth or sixth. And when that caution came out, our pit crew guys, they knew what to do,” Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet crew chief Chad Knaus said. “They knew they were going to have to get us some spots if we were going to have any shot at getting the victory. A fantastic pitstop. I think we gained two or three spots and it put us in third.

“I was telling Jimmie, just before that restart I said, ‘Buddy, dig in deep and go find that cape.’ On that restart, he did really well. He got up on the 4 car (Harvick) and they pushed past the car on the outside, and he was able to drive down to the inside and he was able to blow by the 4 car. Jimmie is, obviously, an amazing talent behind the wheel. For him to do what he did today, I think that speaks volumes for what that man is capable of.”

2011 Auto Club 400 champion Harvick led for 142 laps and appeared destined for a second Auto Club Speedway victory until the final caution flag dropped. While Harvick took runner-up honors in the Auto Club 400 for the second consecutive year, he does maintain an 11-point lead over Johnson atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 195 points.

Busch was running a comfortable second, behind Harvick, until he blew a tire in Turn 3 near the end of the race. He finished runner-up in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series TreatMyClot.com 300 after suffering a flat tire while leading on the final lap. The hard-luck Busch ran 25th overall and had his eight-race streak of top-5 results on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series end.

2015 Auto Club 400 champion Brad Keselowski (No. 2, Wurth Ford) got inside the top three in the final quarter of the race and wound up placing ninth. Polesitter Austin Dillon (No. 3, American Ethanol Chevrolet), who won Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway, finished 24th. Auto Club Speedway hosted its 27th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race – second all-time among active California racetracks. The race featured 26 lead changes and eight different leaders.

 

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