Jimmie Johnson wins at Atlanta, ties Dale Earnhardt for 7th on all-time wins list

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Jimmie Johnson moved into a tie for seventh on NASCAR’s all-time wins list with Dale Earnhardt, capturing his 76th career Sprint Cup victory Sunday.

Johnson took the checkered flag in the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch as the race went five extra laps past the scheduled 325-lap event.

Richard Petty (200 wins) is the all-time winningest driver in the Sprint Cup Series, followed by David Pearson (105), Jeff Gordon (93), Darrell Waltrip (84), Bobby Allison (84), Cale Yarborough (83), Dale Earnhardt (76) and now Johnson (76).

It was a 1-2 Hendrick Motorsports finish with Johnson, who is now qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Earnhardt Jr. Johnson took the lead for good on lap 286 and held on for the remaining 44 laps.

Kyle Busch, who won the pole position on Friday, only to have it disallowed after the No. 18 Toyota failed post-qualifying inspection, rallied from starting at the back of the field Sunday to finish third.

Older brother and revised pole sitter Kurt Busch finished fourth, while Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.

Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 131 laps, spun his tires on the final restart with two laps to go and fell back to a sixth-place finish.

Martin Truex Jr. finished seventh, followed by Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Only 12 cars were on the lead lap when the checkered flag fell.

There was only one caution flag in the race (for debris on Lap 210) until Lap 322 when Ryan Newman experienced a single-car spin after apparently experiencing a tire failure. That put the race into overtime.

There was a four-car crash involving Aric Almirola, David Ragan and two other drivers on the final lap, bringing out the third and final caution, sealing Johnson’s win.

MORE: NASCAR Sprint Cup results from Atlanta Motor Speedway

MORE: NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings after Atlanta race

HOW JOHNSON WON: Crew chief Chad Knaus wasn’t taking any chances. He brought Johnson in early on the final green-flag stop — 10 laps ahead of Harvick, who had a much slower stop. Johnson took the lead and stayed there. “It was definitely a gutsy call,” Johnson told Fox Sports. “The 4 car was awfully tough and it was going to take some strategy to get by him. When (Knaus) told me to whip it as hard as I could there, I just felt like I was going to take too much lap out of the tires, but it worked. I got rolling around the top and got to where I got to Victory Lane.” Another big key was the final restart. Johnson had a perfect jump, while Harvick spun his tires and fell back, ending any chance for a last-lap rally.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD DAY: Even though he never led a lap, Dale Earnhardt Jr. rallied from fifth in the final laps to take second place. “You get lucky on some restarts and sometimes you don’t. We gained a few spots at the end and got lucky,” Earnhardt told Fox Sports. … Kyle Busch ignored that he started at the back of the pack, led two laps and barely lost second to Earnhardt. … Chase Elliott rebounded from his disappointment at Daytona to finish eighth.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Clint Bowyer struggled throughout the race, finishing 35th, eight laps off the lead lap. … Aric Almirola was closing in on a potential top 10 finish until he was involved in a last lap wreck with David Ragan, Ryan Blaney and Landon Cassill. Almirola’s car burst into flames but he was able to exit without incident.

NOTABLE: After earning his fifth career win at Atlanta, Johnson took a victory lap, sticking three fingers out the driver’s side window in honor of tying the late Dale Earnhardt with his 76th career win. … Ty Dillon, filling in for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 17th. … Chevrolet had five finishers in the top 10, Toyota had three and Ford had two. … Harvick may be disappointed by the way he faded at the end of the race, but he has this to look forward to: He won two of last year’s races (Las Vegas, Phoenix) on the upcoming West Coast swing, and finished third (Fontana) in the other.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It is such an honor. The chaos at the end and the crash and wondering about overtime, I kind of lost sight of that (tying Earnhardt). I remembered on my victory lap, coming down, I had to throw a 3 out the window to pay respects to the man. There’s a huge void in my career that I never had a chance to race with him, but at least I was able to tie his record.” – Race winner Jimmie Johnson on tying Dale Earnhardt for seventh on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup all-time wins list (76 wins each).

WHAT’S NEXT: Kobalt 400, March 6 (3:30 p.m. ET), Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report