Jimmie Johnson earns 83rd career victory at Dover to tie Cale Yarborough
Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson took turns dominating at the Monster Mile on Sunday, but Jimmie Johnson came on strong to win here again.
Truex and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota captured the first two stages in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway, where Larson led the most laps.
When the race was on the line, though, Johnson passed Larson on an overtime restart to win his record 11th race at the Monster Mile.
Johnson led just seven laps, but he won his 83rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, tying Cale Yarborough for sixth overall on the victory list. Larson finished second in his Chip Ganassi Chevrolet ahead of Truex.
“I never thought I would end up here in NASCAR as a kid racing in the dirt out in Southern California. I was a big Cale Yarborough fan,” said Johnson.”
Johnson raced with Yarborough tribute helmet.
“To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing,” Johnson said of Yarborough. “We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport.”
Larson led a race-high 241 laps and was disappointed, but philosophical about finishing second.
“Jimmie’s the best of our time, probably the best of all time,” said Larson. “… He did a better job on the restart.”
It was a wild afternoon at Dover.
Toyotas swept the first two rows in qualifying with Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota flanked on Row 1 by Truex in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Camry.
Once the race got started, Busch immediately jumped into the lead. But on his first pit stop, the left-rear wheel and tire fell off Busch’s car, sending him to the end of the lead lap.
At the end of the first 120-lap stage, Truex was first, winning his seventh different stage at his sixth different track so far this year. Truex led 69 of the first 120 laps in Stage 1.
When the caution came out to end Stage 1, the top 12 cars stayed out, with Larson inheriting the lead when Truex pitted. Larson led most of the stage, but on Lap 212, Truex went underneath him to take the lead and win his eighth stage of the year.
Once Stage 3 began, Larson went back out front, with a fantastic lead battle as he was pursued by Truex and Johnson.
Most of the leaders pitted with about 75 laps to go, when a crash by Regan Smith on Lap 331 changed the outcome of the race. Ty Dillon was one of a handful of drivers who hadn’t stopped for tires and fuel, and he suddenly found himself in the lead for only the third time this season.
With brother Austin having won last week, it seemed for an instant as if lightning might strike twice for the Dillon brothers.
Alas, it was not to be.
With 49 laps to go, Johnson passed Ryan Newman to take second place, as he set sail after Dillon.
Five laps later, Larson went high to wrestle away the second spot from Johnson.
And with 40 laps to go, Larson took the outside line again to pass Dillon for the lead. At that point, it appeared Larson was in prime position.
But then drama. With four laps to go, David Ragan popped a tire to bring out a caution and set up overtime.
On the restart, Johnson got past Larson, but behind him the field crashed hard in a huge multi-car pile-up -- sealing the win for Johnson.