By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
In his best race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season so far, Jimmie Johnson earned a top-five finish.
On the final restart, Johnson and Alex Bowman were behind Kevin Harvick. While Bowman’s No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 eventually made its’ way past Harvick’s No. 4, the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet struggled to pass the Stewart-Haas Racing machine.
During the long, 90-lap run to the finish, Johnson was constantly in the mix. He battled with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Bowman, along with Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski at Chicagoland Speedway.
The varying strategies for the final round of green flag pit stops saw Johnson swing up and down the running order until the cycle completed. After the cycle finished with 40 laps to go, the seven-time champion found himself two seconds behind Logano, and three ahead of Keselowski.
For a period of four or five laps, the gaps would lengthen before ‘rubber banding’ back into place. Those gaps ultimately never closed, and Johnson took the checkered flag in fourth.
“It was just a solid performance for our Ally team,” Johnson explained. “I’m really proud of everyone. I just couldn’t clear the No. 4 car when he was so on-track and the car to beat and I think he was probably the strongest car tonight.
“The way some of those restarts unfolded, the No. 88 had a great opportunity with the draft and working very well and got the lead. Once he had that control, there’s really no taking it from him. I’m extremely happy for Hendrick Motorsports. It was a good night.”
Although Johnson led fewer laps at Chicagoland than he did at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this season, he was far more consistent. He never ran lower than fifth in any of the stages in the rain delayed race. At Texas, he faded before rebounding for a top-five. Johnson finished the first two stages in fourth and fifth respectively.
Johnson, who started fourth, quickly made his way up to the lead at the start of the 400-mile race. He slipped backwards following the lengthy rain delay.
The fourth-place finish is just the second top-five finish for Johnson this season. It is also his best finish since the Spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway when he finished third.
The top-five moves Johnson up from 17th in the championship standings to 14th. He is 241-points behind points leader Logano. Johnson is now just five points ahead of the playoff cutoff held by Clint Bowyer.