Don’t look now, but Jimmie Johnson could be mounting a comeback in his final NASCAR Cup Series season. Johnson nabbed his first top-five finish since Daytona last July (20 races ago), with a solid fifth-place finish in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
According to Johnson, the restarts were key to his great finish.
“Man, every restart you just have to get everything you can,” Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, said. “Once your momentum is broke and guys fall in line, it’s so hard to generate enough of a run and energy to pass somebody. So we’re just driving like fools getting started. I hope the fans enjoyed it, it’s pretty wild from the seat.”
Johnson started back in 18th, when the field was set by points due to Saturday’s qualifying session being rained out. But Johnson spent little time working his way toward the front.
While Johnson was fast all race long, he had to feel nervous over the final stretch of the race as he slapped the wall with less than 50 laps to go, and then made contact with the right side of his car again as he was passing John Hunter Nemechek.
Fortunately, the damage didn’t rub the tires on Johnson’s car and he was able to make it to the finish cleanly.
Now, with a newly redesigned Chevrolet Camaro body, and momentum building, Johnson feels things are heading in the right direction for his No. 48 team.
“Yeah, we’re rolling in the right way — I think,” Johnson explained. “This year’s [Camaro] gives us a bigger window to work within. To see four or five chevy’s up front mixed in with those Fords today and was really nice, and I think a telling sign of what we needed to get us up front.”
Next week, Johnson heads to the site of his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory, which also happens to be his hometown track — Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.