By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson is moving on to the Round of Eight.
Since the Elimination-style format was introduced for the Chase for the Championship in 2014, the 41-year-old Californian had yet to advance all the way through to the Final Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In fact, he had yet to advance passed the second round of the Chase – until now.
In qualifying, Johnson was able to place his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS 11th on the starting grid and quietly began to move up through the field, moving into the Top 10 by the time the competition caution waved on lap 25.
The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion continued to move forward as the laps clicked off, eventually finding the lead and never truly falling away from the front of the pack.
Despite losing the battle off pit road and starting alongside Kenseth on the final restart, Johnson pulled away and won the 2016 Bank of America 500 by 1.474 seconds over Kenseth en route to his 78th career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This win advances Johnson into the Round of Eight for the first time since the inception of the Elimination-Style Chase format.
The victory also breaks a 24-race winless streak, the longest streak of his Sprint Cup Series career.
Johnson was relieved to be able to move on to the Round of Eight for the first time.
“I don’t know what our plan will be at Kansas,” said Johnson, who has eight wins at Charlotte in 31 starts. “It certainly opens up the book. It (today’s win) let’s me go to Talladega and not worry about it, which is fantastic. Then we have Texas, Martinsville, Phoenix. We have been very fast at Phoenix.
“Good things have happened for us, and we have to take it one day at a time, and one race at a time. We have been bringing better cars to the racetrack. We have hit on some things, and still have to work on others, but there is more opportunity ahead of us. This does buy us a couple of weeks.”
Johnson now looks forward to Kansas, as well as the Round of Eight as he continues to chase his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.