By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
In recent weeks, Hendrick Motorsports has been uncharacteristic with their finishing positions. Until today’s race at Indianapolis, Hendrick Motorsports had gone three straight races without a top 10 finish. This is the first time in over a decade that has happened to the organization.
Jimmie Johnson qualified the best for the organization this week, starting the Brickyard 400 in 13th. The race started out promising for Johnson, as he slowly worked his way up into the top 10 by lap 20.
30 laps later, Johnson broke into the top five for the first time in the race.
Johnson hovered just inside the top 10 for the next 30 laps, but as Johnson pitted during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 84, he was penalized for speeding entering pit road. Johnson would serve a pass thru penalty two laps later.
The penalty dropped Johnson down to 21st in the running order. Johnson remained mired around the 20th position for the next 35 laps. A caution on lap 117 for an accident involving David Ragan allowed Johnson and his team to reset.
Johnson climbed up to 14th during the next green flag run. A late caution with about 15 laps to go allowed Johnson and others to pit for fresh tires as many of the leaders stayed on track.
Johnson restarted just outside the top 10. However, an accident involving several, including Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Newman in front of Johnson, and a few behind Johnson presented another chance for Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet team a chance to reset. After a brief red flag, Johnson found himself just inside the top 10.
On the restart, Johnson was able to gain a few positions before another yellow waved as Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne got together on the backstretch. On the ensuing restart, Jamie McMurray spun after making contact with Tony Stewart.
On the final restart, Johnson found himself just outside the top five. Johnson picked off drivers one by one. Johnson first snuck by Martin Truex Jr., followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick.
Johnson took the checkered flag in the third position. This was Johnson’s 214th career top five finish, and the 1,000th top five for Hendrick Motorsports. The first top five for Hendrick Motorsports came with the organizations’ first victory with Geoffrey Bodine in 1984 at Martinsville Speedway.
A sincerely disappointed Johnson expressed how he is still proud of his team after his mistake on pit road.
“It says a lot (about the team). We have worked really hard to get our cars where the need to be,” Johnson said. “We’re still not happy, but we’re getting closer. I’m so very proud about the effort today. Unfortunately a mistake on my part in the second segment, trying to get in the pits and got dinged for speeding. I rallied from like 24th back. I’m proud of this race team, and so very proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I’m very proud to run this red car, to represent all of the men and women that work in the Lowe’s stores. A big thank you to everybody, we got third, just wish it could have been a win.”