Joey Longano may have won pole for the at SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway, but Jimmie Johnson won the race just as the clock struck midnight this morning, following a 2-hour rain delay called with just 98 laps completed. Howvever, it was a late race gamble not to pit after Ricky Stenhouse hit the wall on lap 256, that turned out to be the deciding factor, allowing Johnson to take the lead away from Harvick on the final restart.
At the time of Stenhouse’s crash, Harvick had been running at the head of the pack, followed by Martin Truex Jr., but the two decided to pit for gas and tires, which cost them the race. Although Harvick did manage to roar back into 2nd at the flag. Truex, however, could not catch up and finished 9th. In the meantime, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also decided to follow Johnson’s lead by not pitting, all the while praying that they would not run out of fuel or tires before the end. Junior ended up 3rd, Gordon held on for 4th, and Logano rounded out the top 5, despite a pair of personal problems on pit road. The 1st was due to “too many men over the wall,” and the 2nd when he pitted when the area was closed, forcing him to restart twice from the back of the pack.
“Just in a bad spot leading the race there,” “Johnson and Earnhardt Jr, didn’t have anything for us on speed,” Harvick noted about his decision to check into pit row one last time before the end run. “They were just doing what they had to do track position-wise and then moving all over the racetrack to try to get the air off the cars.”
Although Johnson took this one away from him, the pair have collectively garnered 7-straight races at 1.5-mile tracks since last October’s race at Kansas Speedway, insuring that they both have a place in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup..