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A late-race accident relegated Jimmie Johnson to a 34th-place finish in the AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Under the lights at the 1.54-mile oval, Johnson started eighth in the annual Labor Day weekend event. Loose racecars seemed to be the theme up and down pit road, and Johnson’s reports of his Kobalt Tools Chevrolet were no different. Crew chief Chad Knaus and team tweaked the car on pit road throughout the night and Johnson maintained a spot in the top-10.
Following a caution period late in the race, Johnson lined up in the ninth position for a restart on lap 270. As he circled the track with Sam Hornish Jr. to his outside, Ryan Newman went to the high side of Hornish to make it three-wide off turn two. The cars made slight contact and a melee ensued, sending Johnson into the wall with Newman following.
Johnson brought the Kobalt Tools Chevy down pit road, where the team assessed the damage and quickly determined it was done for the night.
“I think the No. 39 (Newman) was on the outside the No. 22 (Hornish) was next to me; we just all converged at one spot,” said Johnson. “There is not a real good angle. All I know is I was riding down the road and left plenty of room on the outside of me, and I got turned head on into the wall.
“I think we had a top-five night going and unfortunately ended up with a torn up racecar. We will be back next week and try again.”
Denny Hamlin won the AdvoCare 500 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading fourth of the season and his first at Atlanta. It was his second consecutive victory, as he also won last weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Jeff Gordon finished .378 of a second behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 31 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 327-lap race, which was extended two laps by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 25 of 36 complete, Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the lead for Hendrick Motorsports in the championship point standings. He is second with 871 points, eight behind series leader Greg Biffle. Johnson is fourth with 848 points, 31 out of first. Kasey Kahne is in 11th with 751 points, 128 out of first and 18 out of 10th. Gordon is 13th with 734 points, 145 out of first, 35 out of 10th.
The top 10 in points are locked into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kahne holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Busch remains in the 12th-place wild-card spot after Atlanta due to his victory April 28 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, combined with his 13th position in the point standings, which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points – Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Newman and Joey Logano.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, Sept. 8 in the series’ return to Richmond. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.