Photos By: Sol Tucker and Evan Chvotkin
Story By: Sol Tucker
“I got a great start in second gear,” said Johnson, who led four laps but finished 25th. “As I went to put it in third (gear) and came across the shifting gate it never went into third. It actually got locked in the neutral area of the transmission. I had plenty of time. Martin was plenty patient with me and I was trying to get third and I couldn’t. I tried for fourth and third and fourth and I finally got hit. Just a freak deal with something with the transmission. I’ve never had that happen to me in my career.”
Johnson spun into traffic behind him, damaging a list of cars that included: No. 18 Kyle Busch, No. 1 Jamie McMurray, No. 43. Aric Almirola, No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 22 Joey Logano, No. 16 Greg Biffle, No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 47 AJ Allmendinger, No. 15 Clint Bowyer, No. 31 Ryan Newman, No. 95 Michael McDowell, No. 6 Trevor Bayne, No. 13 Casey Mears, No. 27 Paul Menard and No. 11 Denny Hamlin.
Matt Kenseth snapped finally snapped out of a 17-race win-less skid with his 37th career victory and denied Larson his first win. His car was one of the few that was at the right place at the right time to avoid most of the accident on the front stretch. He used his experience on this track to edge out Larson.
“I got digging the best I could and tried to hold him off,” Kenseth said.
Martin Truex led 47 laps and seemed poised to earn his first win of the season.
“I want to get out and punch somebody,” Truex said over the radio. “Seriously. Hard. Like, as hard as I can.”
Busch, the reigning series champion, knew there was nowhere for him to go but into the pile.
“Wait for me, I’m coming,” he said.
Aric Almirola said he suffered a broken finger in the wreck.
The race was stopped for 11 minutes, 22 seconds — and quickly had another caution shortly after it resumed. Carl Edwards suffered a brutal blow when his car slammed nose first into an inside wall protected by SAFER barriers. Larson made contact with Edwards and shot the JGR driver into the wall.
Kenseth and Larson battled door-to-door for part of the final five laps and the 2003 NASCAR champion picked all the right lines and pulled away at the end. Chase Elliott made a late push and finished third. Larson matched his career-best finish and Elliott had the top finish of his rookie season.