Darlington, SC – Jimmie Johnson gave team owner Rick Hendrick his long-awaited 200th win in NASCAR's premier series by taking Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, led a race-high 134 laps but had to gamble on fuel in the late stages. He stretched his fuel long enough to hold off Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart in a green-white-checkered finish for his 56th career win in the series.
Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports also ended a 16-race winless streak. Johnson gave the racing organization its 199th win in Cup last October at Kansas Speedway.
"I can't believe we won 200 of these things," Hendrick said. "I can't believe it took this long after winning 199."
HMS became just the second team in Cup to reach the 200 win mark. Petty Enterprises holds the record with 268 victories.
Hendrick attended a wedding earlier in the day and did not arrive to the racetrack until late in the event. Hendrick met up with Johnson after he hopped out of his No. 48 Chevrolet in Darlington's victory lane.
"You got to love that man. He just said, '200 is great, but let's go get 250'." Johnson said.
Johnson last pitted on lap 280. He benefited from several late-race cautions when he shut his engine off several times during the caution periods.
The race featured eight cautions, but the first one surprisingly did not occur until lap 172. Five cautions happened within the final 68 laps.
An incident involving Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman setup the two-lap overtime finish. Busch made contact with the wall several times before he spun around. Ryan Newman also lost control and turned around.
After the final restart, Johnson easily pulled away from the field, but Stewart, who was running second at the time, lost fuel pressure and gave up the position to Hamlin. Johnson crossed the finish line 0.8 seconds ahead of Hamlin.
"It really was a lot of drama," Johnson said. "In a fuel-mileage race, when you see that 14 [Stewart], you always second guess yourself, because he is so good at it. I was really concerned. I was just pacing myself on what he was doing. I hoped I had save enough fuel and felt like I did a good job and certainly did. There were a lot of hungry drivers out there."
It's the third time Johnson has won in 14 races at Darlington -- NASCAR's oldest superspeedway. He won both races at this uniquely shaped 1.366-mile track during the 2004 season.
Hamlin finished in the runner-up spot for the second night in a row at Darlington. Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Joey Logano, passed him for the lead with less than two laps to go to win Friday night's Nationwide Series race here.
"Second isn't bad, but we just didn't have quite the car we needed to win today," Hamlin said.
Stewart settled for third. The three-time and defending series champion has yet to win at Darlington. Kentucky Speedway is the only other track on the current Sprint Cup schedule where he is winless.
"The fuel pressure light was blinking when we got the one to go [for the final restart]." Stewart said. "I'm pretty happy to come out of here with third tonight. I'm really proud of Rick Hendrick and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They deserved this 200th."
Hendrick supplies Stewart-Haas Racing with its engines.
Kyle Busch finished fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose and Logano completed the top-10.
Making just her second start in the series, Danica Patrick finished six laps behind in 31st. She started 38th. With 60 laps to go, Patrick had to serve a pass-through penalty after hitting the commitment cone while entering pit road.
Despite finishing 12th, Greg Biffle remained atop the point standings. Biffle started on the pole and led the second most laps with 74. Kenseth trimmed his Roush Fenway Racing teammate's lead to just two points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 14 points out of the lead after finishing 17th.