DOVER, Del. — Will one record-setting performance help Jimmie Johnson close in on another?
Johnson won his record eighth Sprint Cup Series victory at Dover International Speedway, holding off Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win Sunday’s AAA 400.
The question now, will another dominating Dover appearance be enough to fuel a sixth series championship for Johnson. NASCAR legends Richard Petty and the Dale Earnhardt Sr. share the record (seven).
Joey Logano finished third, Jeff Gordon fourth and Kyle Busch was fifth.
Matt Kenseth continues to lead the series standings, with Johnson now eight points behind.
Earnhardt, the pole-winner, took early command of the race, leading 76 of the first 117 laps.
Earnhardt was waiting to make a green-flag pit stop when he slowed through Turns 3 and 4 but missed the entrance to pit road. The costly mistake left him seventh in the running order once the green-flag pit stop cycle was completed on Lap 120.
Earnhardt’s miscue helped move Johnson into the lead for the first time.
Debris on the track brought out a caution on Lap 165 and all of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and new tires. On the restart on Lap 171, Matt Kenseth led the way followed by Johnson and Ryan Newman.
Johnson made his way back into the lead on Lap 198.
Halfway through the 400-lap race, Johnson continued to lead followed by Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt and Newman.
Engine problems sent Brad Keselowski to the garage and fluid from his car brought out a caution on Lap 228.
“I’m not exactly sure, but something in the rear end housing went out and burned itself up. I’m sure everything is screaming hot down there,” Keselowski said.
“We leaked oil on the track, so figured we would come in before we ruined everybody else’s day. We definitely weren’t gonna finish it off, so it’s just one of those deals.”
During the caution, all of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires and Johnson remained out front on the restart on Lap 236 followed by Kenseth and Earnhardt.
With 100 laps remaining, Johnson continued to hold a sizable lead followed by Earnhardt, Gordon, Kenseth and Logano.
Just past the 300-lap mark, Earnhardt began to run down Johnson and briefly took the lead as another round of green-flag pit stops started on Lap 309.
Once the cycle was completed on Lap 316, Johnson moved back into the lead followed by Kenseth, Gordon, Earnhardt and Kyle Busch.
With 50 laps remaining, Johnson still held a large lead over Kenseth but virtually every team still required one final stop for fuel to make it to the finish.
Debris on the track brought out the fourth caution of the race on Lap 370. All of the lead-lap cars hit pit road for fuel and tires.
Johnson remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 375 after taking just two new tires. He was followed by Gordon and Kenseth — who also took two tires. Earnhardt lined up in fourth and was the first car with four new tires.
Johnson quickly established a sizable lead as Earnhardt moved into second.