NSCS: Johnson delivers win 200 for Hendrick in the Southern 500

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

It looked as though win 200 for Hendrick Motorsports would come at Martinsville Speedway back in April. When that didn’t happen, the focus shifted to the Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

Both times, Jimmie Johnson wasn’t able to deliver the win for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing second and third respectively in those races.

Coming to the Darlington Raceway on Saturday, Hendrick Motorsports had 13 wins at the track “too tough to tame”. That all changed Saturday night as Jimmie Johnson won the Southern 500 to give Hendrick Motorsports their 200th Sprint Cup win.

“This race is so special, so great,” said Johnson in victory lane to the FOX reporters. “Darlington is an awesome race track and I’m just pumped to win here.”

The race started out with a 171 lap run of green flag racing, the longest stretch of green flag racing in Southern 500 history since NASCAR started giving detailed reports of caution statistics in the 1970′s.

That allowed the drivers who qualified up towards the front of the field to get off the the early advantage as the race stayed green for nearly half of the entire race distance to start the night off.

Johnson, who ran inside the top-five for the majority of the 367 laps on the night, lead six times for 134 laps, the most laps of the race.

After not pitting for the last 50-plus laps of the race, Johnson was in fuel conservation mode up until the final caution of the night. Shutting the car off under the caution flag trying to save every drop of fuel, Johnson faced a restart with two laps to go to decide the 63rd Southern 500.

Starting next to Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin for the final restart of the night, Johnson jumped out of the gate to a big lead and drove off to claim his 56th career Sprint Cup win and third at Darlington.

“In a fuel mileage race, when you see that 14[Stewart], you always second guess yourself,” said Johnson. “He’s so good at it.

“I was really concerned, I was pacing myself in the mirror off of what he[Stewart] was doing and hoped that I saved enough.

“I thought I was going too fast. There was a lot of second guessing my pace and how much throttle I was using up in front of Tony. But once I had that little gap on him, I felt pretty good about it.”

Johnson’s second Southern 500 triumph places him eighth on the all-time win list in Sprint Cup history, breaking the tie with Rusty Wallace for the spot.

Claiming their first win at Martinsville Speedway with Geoff Bodine in 1984 when the team was under the “All-Star Motorsports”, Hendrick Motorsports puts themselves with the likes of Petty Enterprises as the only two teams to win 200 races in NASCAR Cup Series history.

“I want to thank everyone from Harry Hide, to Geoff Bodine, to Tim Richmond,” said team owner Rick Hendrick who dedicated the win to his late son Ricky. “I just want to that all of the people who helped along the way.

“I never thought I’d win a championship.I never thought I’d get to race in NASCAR. I never though I’d win one race.”

Through over 25 years in the sport and now 200 career victories, there’s something else that Hendrick cherishes the most about his time in NASCAR.

“The friends and the relationships you build in this sport are unbelieveable,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

After leading the race early on, Greg Biffle finished his night at the Darlington Raceway in the 12th position. Biffle still leads the points over Kenseth by two points heading into the Coca-Cola 600 in two weeks.

Next up, the Sprint Cup stars take to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Sprint All-Star race next Saturday, May 19.

Results of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Tony Stewart
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Matt Kenseth
  7. Carl Edwards
  8. Kasey Kahne
  9. Marcos Ambrose
  10. Joey Logano
  11. Clint Bowyer
  12. Greg Biffle
  13. Paul Menard
  14. Regan Smith
  15. Brad Keselowski
  16. Kevin Harvick
  17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  18. Jeff Burton
  19. Aric Almirola
  20. Mark Martin
  21. Kurt Busch
  22. Casey Mears
  23. Ryan Newman
  24. Juan Pablo Montoya
  25. David Gilliland
  26. Landon Cassill
  27. Dave Blaney
  28. David Ragan
  29. Bobby Labonte
  30. Reed Sorenson
  31. Danica Patrick
  32. Travis Kvapil
  33. A.J. Allmendinger
  34. Jamie McMurray
  35. Jeff Gordon
  36. David Reutimann
  37. J.J. Yeley
  38. Cole Whitt
  39. David Stremme
  40. Joe Nemechek
  41. Mike Skinner
  42. Scott Speed
  43. Josh Wise

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