Jimmie Johnson hangs on late to score fourth career Atlanta win (VIDEO)

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Jimmie Johnson rallied from 37th on the starting grid and led 92 laps en route to his fourth career triumph at Atlanta Motor Speedway, claiming Sunday’s Folds of Honor/QuikTrip 500.

Last year, Johnson had to wait until the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte to earn his first win. But by winning this second race of 2015, the six-time Sprint Cup champion has already ensured that he’ll battle for a record-tying seventh Cup title in the Chase (provided that he stays in the Top 30 in points through the regular season).

“It says a lot of good things,” Johnson told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “I’m so excited the [new guys on the team] can understand what I was complaining about. We thought we were a Top-10 car last night, and I’m sorry to tell you that earlier today, I didn’t think we were gonna be that good.

“We had some troubles on pit road, but once we got by the 19 [Carl Edwards], that allowed us to get track position. And this thing was bad fast. I had a blast racing with the 4 [Kevin Harvick], he was awfully strong today. But I think track position at the end set things in place.”

Kevin Harvick led a race-high 116 laps but settled for second place after passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the spot with less than 10 laps to go. Pole sitter Joey Logano followed up his Daytona 500 win one week ago with a fourth-place result, and Matt Kenseth completed the Top 5.

How Jimmie Johnson won: Johnson held off a stiff challenge from Earnhardt on the final restart with 14 laps to go. Earnhardt hung with Johnson through Turns 1, 2, and the backstretch but Johnson was too strong and subsequently pulled away to his first Atlanta win since 2007 (he swept both Atlanta races that year).

“We got the restart we needed, cleared the 88 [Earnhardt], and off we went,” Johnson said.

Who else had a good day: Martin Truex Jr. has put together solid results in these first two races of 2015, finishing sixth today after an eighth-place run at Daytona … Also doing well were A.J. Allmendinger in seventh and Brett Moffitt, who took Brian Vickers’ No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota to eighth. Vickers returns to the No. 55 next week at Las Vegas after recovering from off-season heart surgery.

Who had a bad day: Two major restart incidents ended the afternoon for multiple big names. A four-car melee off a restart with 69 laps to go ended with Jeff Gordon hitting an unprotected inside wall at the end of the backstretch. Then, with 21 laps to go, contact between Greg Biffle and Joe Nemechek led to a chain reaction crash that involved eight cars, including those of Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson.

Quote of the day: “Pretty convenient to c that SAFER Barrier end just before @jeffgordonweb pounds wall. Hope he’s healthy! When will this end @NASCAR” – Kyle Busch on Twitter, moments after Gordon’s crash. Busch is recovering from leg and foot injuries sustained in last weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Daytona when he crashed into an unprotected wall himself.

Other notables: Regan Smith finished 17th in place of Kurt Busch for a second consecutive week, while David Ragan started his fill-in role for Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with an 18th-place showing.

What’s next: The series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next weekend’s Kobalt 400. Brad Keselowski won last year’s race, taking the lead on the last lap from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who gambled on fuel but ran out.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings