Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Atlanta Victory Vaults Johnson Into Elite Company

Jimmie Johnson salutes the fans
after picking up career victory No. 76 


Atlanta Victory Vaults Johnson Into Elite Company (#nascar)

He may not have stormed from the back of the field like he did the previous year, but Jimmie Johnson still moved himself up a notch in the Atlanta Motor Speedway history books with his repeat victory at the 2016 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

The win was Johnson's 76th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, tying him with one of, if not the, most iconic drivers in NASCAR lore, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

Put simply, if you were here for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, you witnessed a piece of NASCAR history.

The significance of tying the mark set by the driver known as "The Intimidator" was not lost on Johnson, who during his victory lap, held up three fingers as a salute to Earnhardt, who drove a No. 3 car.

"I entered the sport just hoping I could win a race and keep a job for a few years, and to have 76 and tie Dale Earnhardt Sr. is something I'm very, very proud of. I didn't have a chance to race against him, unfortunately, but today -- there's been a big void in my mind about not having that chance to race against him, and it was literally a handful of months away from having that opportunity," Johnson said. " So to tie him today, for myself personally, it gives me a little something -- it's a little bit of attachment to the great Dale Earnhardt and something I'm very proud of."

Among the drivers in the garage that noticed the gesture was second-place finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

"I told him on a couple occasions that when he tied daddy, he'd better say something cool, and he'd better tell them that it's awesome for him to tie him, because I know Jeff had the flag and all that, so that was awesome when your competitors and peers recognize your father like that," Earnhardt Jr. said after the race.

Atlanta Victory Vaults Johnson Into Elite Company (#nascar)

Johnson now has five Atlanta wins, the most among active full-time drivers, and is tied for fifth with Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison.

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