By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Even a run through the spin cycle couldn’t hamper Jimmie Johnson in the Coca Cola 600. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, along with most of the Chevrolet contingent, ran well throughout the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In the late stages of the race, Johnson fought with Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, and Kyle Larson for position. The 18-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran boldly took McMurray and Chase Elliott three wide on the frontstretch, making the pass with ease. The move put Johnson in fifth, where he would remain until the checkered flag.
The Seven-Time Premier Series Champion battled Denny Hamlin for position in the second stage. Contact sent Johnson spinning in front of the field in turns three and four. Joey Logano was spun in the chaos behind. Somehow, neither driver hit anything or were hit by anyone else. Johnson recovered to finish the stage in eighth.
Johnson’s No. 48 was in the top-five early and often in NASCAR’s longest race. Despite qualifying a dismal 23rd, he was inside the top-five by the end of the first stage. Two early cautions helped propel Johnson up the running order.
“We’re getting closer,” Johnson said. “The 4 car wasn’t out there to show us what he had. The 18 looked pretty far up there. We definitely improved to the pack, but I don’t know to the fastest cars, but we’ll go home this week, work our asses off, and try to do it again. I had a car tonight that I could race, pass, and make stuff happen with. First time I’ve had that in a long time.”
This was the second top-five of the season for Johnson, and his fifth top-10 finish. The fifth-place finish keeps him 12thin the Championship Points Standings, 246-points behind Points Leader, and race winner, Kyle Busch. Johnson is also 31-points ahead of Elliott, who holds the Playoff Cutoff.
Now Johnson and his team will look to build on their momentum as they head to Pocono Raceway on June 3.