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Jimmie Johnson Wins at Charlotte

Jimmie Johnson returned to familiar ground on Sunday afternoon – Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He entered the weekend as the track’s all-time leader with seven Cup Series wins. He exits with his eighth career victory on the mile-and-a-half North Carolina oval, punching his ticket into the next round of the post-season Chase. As successful as Johnson has been at C-M-S, his last win there before Sunday came more than two years ago. Johnson got the best of race leader Matt Kenseth on the day’s final restart and drove away to his third win of the season but first since March 20th at Auto Club Speedway, in the fifth race of the year! The six-time champion started eleventh and led a race-high 155 laps in notching his seventy-eighth career victory – beating runner-up Kenseth to the checkered flag by a second-and-a-half. Kasey Kahne finished third, giving Hendrick Motorsports two of the top three spots. Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson completed the top five … Kevin Harvick started from the pole but led just twelve laps before retiring with engine failure late in the first half of the race. Harvick wasn’t the only Chase driver finishing near the bottom of the running order in Charlotte. Denny Hamlin placed thirtieth, also suffering engine failure. Austin Dillon ran thirty-second, rookie Chase Elliott thirty-third and Joey Logano was thirty-sixth in the forty-car field … Kyle Busch, the Number-1 seed in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, started sixth and finished fourth on Sunday. He’s third in the post-season standings, nine points behind leader Johnson.

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Charlotte Double Header This Weekend

There’ll be two nights of “playoff” action at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday and Saturday, featuring the only primetime race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – Saturday’s Bank of America 500 where Martin Truex Junior will be going for a season sweep on the mile-and-a-half North Carolina oval … In the X-FINITY Series, victories by Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez have moved them into the second round of the inaugural post-season Chase with one race left before the twelve-man title field is trimmed to eight. That’ll come after Friday night’s Drive for the Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Erik Jones, the top seed entering the Chase, has struggled in the post-season. After finishing twenty-eighth in Kentucky, he labored to a sixteenth-place finish last weekend at Dover. Jones is four points below the eighth-place cutoff line and facing elimination in Charlotte.

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Denny Hamlin Wins the Hisense 300 at Charlotte

Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team made a late pit stop for four fresh tires that paid big dividends Saturday as Hamlin charged past Joey Logano after an overtime restart to claim victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. While Hamlin’s Number-18 Toyota got new rubber, Logano and Kyle Larson declined to pit on the day’s final caution, choosing to maintain track position at the front of the field. Once the green flag flew for the last time, Hamlin quickly advanced from sixth place to claim his fifteenth career win. The margin of victory was twenty-nine one-hundredths of a second over Austin Dillon. Logano held on for third place, giving Sprint Cup regulars the top three finishing positions. Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier completed the top five with Larson finishing sixth on worn tires. Hamlin led a race-high seventy-six laps in what was his first series start of the season. Rookie pole sitter Erik Jones led fourteen laps early in the race but hit the wall late, which led to the caution that gave Hamlin his opportunity to visit pit road for four fresh tires. Jones finished thirty-first in the forty-car field … With Hamlin’s victory, Sprint Cup Series regulars have now won eight of the year’s first eleven X-FINITY Series races.

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Martin Truex Jr Wins the Coca Cola 600

Martin Truex Junior started from the pole and led all but eight of the four hundred laps run Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, rolling to one of the most lopsided Cup Series wins in NASCAR’s sixty-eight-year history. He darted away from the field at the drop of the green flag and kept the Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in front throughout the night – beating runner-up Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by two-and-a-half seconds. At one point with just under a hundred laps remaining, Jimmie Johnson had whittled Truex’s lead down to three-quarters of a second. But Truex quickly reasserted his dominance coming out of a restart less than a hundred miles from the finish, easily motoring on to his fourth career victory and first this season. Johnson finished third with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completing the top five … Defending race winner Carl Edwards placed eighteenth in his bid for back-to-back “Six Hundred” victories, slowed by a speeding penalty on pit road … Joey Logano, winner of last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race, was seeking to become just the eighth driver to win both the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 in the same season. But he was penalized when his Team Penske pit crew went over the wall too soon on a stop during the second half of the race, though Logano did rally from that adversity to finish ninth … Truex becomes just the second driver in eighteen years to win NASCAR’s longest race from the pole position. The other is Johnson, who did it twice: in 2004 and 2014 … There were just nine lead changes Sunday, thirteen fewer than last year’s race, among four drivers: Truex, Johnson, Logano and Paul Menard.

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Recap of Last Year’s Coca Cola 600

Carl Edwards managed his fuel mileage to perfection and stretched it all the way to Victory Lane, giving Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of the track’s May events. Edwards’ win came eight days after teammate Denny Hamlin drove to victory in the Sprint All-Star Race. Edwards led the first two laps of the “Six Hundred” and the last twenty-one in notching his twenty-fourth career win and first at C-M-S. It snapped a thirty-one-race winless streak for Edwards, whose last victory had come in June 2014 at Sonoma, California. In winning at Charlotte, Edwards beat runner-up Greg Biffle to the checkered flag by four-point-seven seconds. Dale Earnhardt Junior finished third with pole sitter Matt Kenseth fourth. Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 131 laps but needed a late pit stop for fuel and finished fifth. Thirty-seven laps from the finish, it looked like Hamlin was on his way to sweeping both Charlotte races on his own. But a loose wheel forced him to pit and give up the lead to Truex, who then surrendered the lead himself with his late fuel stop … Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick finished ninth, which was enough for him to maintain a commanding lead in the standings with the regular season nearing its halfway point. Harvick’s advantage over second-place Truex was forty-one points heading into the next race at Dover, Delaware … Team Penske’s Joey Logano came home in thirteenth place on the same day he celebrated his 25th birthday …Kurt Busch still owns the track qualifying record at Charlotte with a lap of 198.771 miles per hour in securing the Number-1 starting spot for the fall race in 2014 … Busch is the last driver to win both the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 in the same season, doubling up in 2010 … The race record for winning average speed belongs to Kasey Kahne, who covered the six hundred miles at a winning pace of 155.687 miles per hour in 2012

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Recap of Last Year’s Xfinity Charlotte Race

For the eighth time in the first eleven races of the year, a Sprint Cup Series driver took home the winner’s trophy in the X-FINITY Series. It was Austin Dillon’s turn on this occasion. He zipped past race leader Denny Hamlin fifteen laps from the finish and kept the Number-33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in front the rest of the way to notch his fourth career win and second of the season. Dillon had the dominant car, leading all but thirty-seven of the two hundred laps. His margin of victory over Hamlin was more than two-and-a-half-seconds. Kasey Kahne finished third with Regan Smith and Darrell Wallace Junior completing the top five … The top four drivers in the X-FINITY Series standings entering the weekend all held their positions. Chris Buescher’s lead now stood at four points over Ty Dillon, who finished seventh in the race – four spots in front of Buescher … Austin Dillon’s first four career X-FINITY Series wins all came from the pole – twice at Kentucky Speedway, then early in the 2015 season at Las Vegas and now in Charlotte. This was Dillon’s first C-M-S victory in five starts … After a four-year dry spell, Chevrolet has now won Charlotte’s spring race the last two seasons – with Kyle Larson in 2014 and Dillon in 2015 … The track qualifying record for the
X-FINITY Series belongs to Jimmie Johnson, who posted a lap of 187.735 miles per hour in October 2005 … Mark Martin – who was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this week as a member of the Class of 2017 – holds the C-M-S mark for winning average speed … 155.799 miles per hour set in May 1996

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Recap of Last Year’s All Star Race

Denny Hamlin ended the thirty-first edition of NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race exactly where he started it – at the front of the field. Hamlin, who qualified on the pole earlier in the evening, pulled away from Kevin Harvick in the final ten-lap segment to claim victory in the annual non-points special event and take home the one million-dollar prize for first place. Harvick finished second with Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth completing the top five. A lightning-fast ten-point-four-second pit stop for four tires put Hamlin at the front of the field for the final restart and he remained there over the last ten laps … Kasey Kahne won the first of the night’s four twenty-five-lap segments. Brad Keselowski won the next two legs with Busch winning Segment-4. Jamie McMurray, bidding to become just the third driver with back-to-back victories in the thirty-one-year history of the event, placed sixteenth … Keselowski won two of the first three segments and led a race-high forty-nine laps. But he was caught speeding on pit road during the final round of stops that forced him to the back of the field and out of contention … Hamlin’s final margin of victory was slightly less than one second over Harvick. The race included just seven lead changes among four drivers: Hamlin, Kahne, Keselowski and Busch … Clint Bowyer, who earned his way into the race by winning the Sprint Showdown, finished twelfth in the main event. Greg Biffle, who won the first segment of Friday’s “Showdown” and qualified on the front row for the All-Star Race, had three pit-road speeding penalties and placed thirteenth.

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NASCAR Heads to Charlotte

Next stop for NASCAR is Charlotte for the thirty-second running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night. Denny Hamlin is the defending winner and is bidding to become just the third driver with back-to-back All-Star victories. Jimmie Johnson won in 2012 and 2013 while Davey Allison was victorious in 1991 and 1992 … The race will be run in three segments, fifty laps in the first two and then a thirteen-lap dash to the finish … There are to be mandatory green-flag pit stops during each of the first two segments. Prior to the final thirteen laps, a random draw will determine whether the top nine, ten or eleven cars will enter pit road for a mandatory four-tire stop. The other drivers will remain on the track on old tires to complete the race … Winner collects one million dollars … In addition to the fifteen drivers now eligible for the All-Star Race, the three winners from each segment of tonight’s Sprint Showdown preliminary race will transfer into Saturday’s main event along with the top two drivers voted in through fan balloting – bringing the All-Star starting field up to twenty drivers.

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Modified Rules for All Star Race

NASCAR has updated its 2016 rules package for this coming weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race in an effort to further reduce downforce on Cup Series cars and bring corner speeds down by some three miles per hour on intermediate-sized mile-and-a-half ovals like Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s race. Because it’s a non-points event, officials and teams will have an opportunity to observe the impact of the changes without compromising the integrity of the regular season – which already has twelve races completed. It is hoped that the adjustments announced Monday will provide closer, more competitive competition. NASCAR implemented a sweeping new set of low-downforce technical specifications for the 2016 season. One-third of the way through the current campaign, lead changes in the Sprint Cup Series are down four percent from last year.

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