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Jimmie Johnson had a car capable of winning the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. But, in a race that saw a record-setting 15 cautions, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports will certainly accept merely surviving the 267-lap event, especially after his sixth-place finish allowed him to close within three points of leader Matt Kenseth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It was Johnson’s 19th top-10 finish of the season and his 13th top-10 in 15 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval.
Johnson’s third-place qualifying effort put him in position to lead early in the race. By lap 80, he led for the first of two times for six laps, earning coveted bonus points. He entered pit road eight laps later but, just as he was about to pull into his stall for service, a caution was issued for debris on the track. Johnson continued down pit road and headed back out on track, returning for service the following lap.
He restarted 17th after the ill-timed caution, forcing him to work his way through traffic. It was the first of several unusual events, including a brush fire just outside turn one that forced the field under caution again on lap 156. Johnson didn’t come in for service and, as a result, restarted in 10th place.
He spent the remainder of the race working his way through a variety of pit cycles that included two- and four-tire changes. With just 24 laps to go, Johnson found himself in the top-five again. His Lowe’s Chevy certainly seemed capable enough to challenge for better track position but, with just two laps to go, Johnson radioed he felt something was possibly going wrong with his engine. Nothing catastrophic occurred and Johnson lost just one spot to finish sixth.
“What a day,” said the five-time champion, whose two career wins at Kansas came in September 2008 and October 2011. “We had so many things happen to us and still salvaged a very strong sixth-place finish. I really feel like we had the fastest car today but just couldn’t get there with issues and track position and cautions at weird times. And restarts were kind of an issue, and there was a lot of craziness there. And then, with two (laps) to go, we had something go wrong with either the ignition or the engine, there, and I had to give up a spot and limped it home. I feel kind of bummed out that we left some points on the table but, at the same time, I’m happy I made it to the finish line under power and I got a nice finish.”
Kevin Harvick won the Hollywood Casino 400 from the pole to score his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Kansas.
Kurt Busch finished 1.140 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot while Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Johnson, Paul Menard, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola comprised the remainder of the top-10. Kenseth finished 11th. Nine drivers failed to finish the 267-lap race.
With six races remaining before a champion is crowned after the season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-13 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the fifth race of the 10-race Chase – is the Bank of America 500 Oct. 12 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with a pre-race show at 7 p.m