By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
For the first time since last September, Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top-five in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race after leaving Bristol with a third-place result.
In a flashback to last year’s running of the Food City 500, Johnson had his No. 48 Chevrolet up front and hunting for the lead throughout the two-day affair, leading many to believe he may just break his winless streak dating back to June of 2017.
After qualifying 17th, Johnson was relegated to a back of the pack starting position after having to change tires prior to the green flag on Sunday, but even starting at the rear of the field couldn’t keep the seven-time champion from marching to the front.
By the end of Stage 1, Johnson had climbed his way to seventh place, staying there until the rains came to push the completion of the race to Monday.
Under the red flag, Johnson knew how fast of a car he had, radioing to crew chief Chad Knaus, saying: “They’re throwing everything at us, but they’re going to know we’re coming.”
When the green flag flew on Monday, Johnson was a man on a mission once more, powering his way to third place by the end of Stage 2.
Once Johnson had cemented himself in the top-five, he wouldn’t budge from there for the remainder of the race, bouncing around from second back to fourth, and everywhere in between.
After holding off a determined Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the closing laps, Johnson found the sweet spot in third place, where he stayed until the checkered flag flew, marking his best finish of the season by far.
“Definitely a strong race car,” said Johnson. “We’ve been talking about our cars performing better and driving better and creating speed the last three weeks or so, but to finally back it up with a solid finish is exactly what we needed. And to see my teammates with positive comments about their cars the last few weeks and some good results yielding from all of that, we definitely have it rolling in the right direction.
“And specifically, on the 48, last weekend there was a lot of excitement with the speed in our car, but we just had some bad luck on track and on pit road and a variety of things that went on. And to really be so buttoned up on race calling, pit stops, what I did in the car, the whole thing, I really feel like we’re rolling in the right direction now.”