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Johnson earns 76th career Cup win in overtime in Atlanta

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Feb 28 2016 Hampton GA USA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson celebrates after winning the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Only six drivers have won more.“This is special for sure, ” said Johnson, who began his Cup career shortly after Earnhardt was killed in a wreck on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. "With the chaos at the end, with the crash and the overtime and how it works these days, I kind of lost sight of that". Kyle Busch finished third after starting last. In a poignant touch, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the runner-up.“If he’s gonna tie that record, I’m certainly glad I got to run second, ” Junior said. "I had a blast".

"Definitely a gutsy call", Johnson said. Johnson called for the inside lane and pulled ahead of Harvick on the restart with Kyle Busch in tow. "You had to take care of your tires and be smart about how you drove the vehicle and driving the auto straight, not really swinging the auto around or getting sideways, and when you get around another auto or a lap auto you had to be careful to drive the auto straight when you got around them". When he told me to whip it as hard as I could there (after the lap 276 pit stop), I just felt like I was going to take too much life out of the tires. Then, in typical unpredictable racing fashion, a caution came out with 3 laps to go as @RyanJNewman blew a tire and spun out on the front stretch. With overtime looming, everyone came to the pits for new tires.

For Earnhardt, who started the race 16th and was fifth for the final restart, the odds were in his favor on Sunday. "Oh I don't remember last week", he said.

"Greg made some adjustments to the vehicle to get that clearance I needed on the restart", he explained. It just required a little bit different handling.

Johnson stuck his hand out of the No. 48 vehicle, holding up three fingers. "We just didn't execute today, but everybody on our Jimmy John's/Busch Chevrolet hung in there all day we'll keep at it". Not only did this move erase the deficit, but once the leaders cycled back out after the green flag pit stops, Johnson had over a 13-second lead over Harvick.

Only seven other drivers have reached at least 76 wins in the sport's history.

Feb 28 2016 Hampton GA USA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson celebrates with his daughter Genevieve Johnson after winning the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sport

Harvick led 131 of 325 laps. It wasn't a race-ender, but the situation only worsened when Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff argued the penalty for so long that NASCAR stopped scoring the vehicle for a lap, leaving Kenseth's JGR Toyota two laps down and, by race's end, clearly out of contention. Kenseth had led 32 laps before pitting.

"I loved it", Earnhardt said.

Martin Truex Jr. finished seventh, followed by Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. That seemed to be the case Sunday in the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

@DaleJr was able to make his way through the overtime fiasco, and brought home a solid second-place finish.

The cars set a blistering pace in the first test of a new aerodynamic package created to promote more competitive racing.

SMALL FIELD: Only 39 cars showed up for the Atlanta race, marking NASCAR's smallest field since 1996. Jimmie Johnson won the 2015 race at Atlanta.

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