By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
When Jimmie Johnson’s Chevrolet turned sideways and spun in the tri-oval on lap 63, it looked like it was going to be another one of those days for the seven-time champion.
Not so fast.
Though his car looked like it had visited a short track rather than a superspeedway where aerodynamics is key, Johnson was able to salvage a top-10 finish for himself and the No. 48 team.
Returning to the track for the first time since Hendrick Motorsports announced that he and crew chief Chad Knaus would be splitting up at season’s end, Johnson was clear that the pair were going to make the most of their final six races together.
After qualifying sixth, Johnson faded to 13th by the end of Stage 1, battling the handling of his car along the way. With handling still an issue in the opening laps of the second stage, disaster struck when he spun in the tri-oval and made contact with the inside wall just past the start/finish line.
The hit looked to be significant enough to be a burden for the rest of the day, but his team set about fixing the damage and in short order, he was able to return to the track and make minimum speed to continue the race – albeit back in 35th place, one lap down.
Stuck a lap down for the majority of the final stage, a caution with 30 laps to go was the break he was looking for as he claimed the Lucky Dog and gained his lap back to return to the lead lap.
From that point on, it was about climbing as high as possible through the field, with Johnson cracking the top-20, then the top-15, and finally the top-10 in the waning laps.
Sitting in seventh place when the race went to overtime, Johnson was able to avoid a crash on the final lap and finished the day in that exact spot for his 11th top-10 finish of the season and his best finish at Talladega since a runner-up effort in the spring of 2015.
In true Jimmie Johnson fashion, he took to Twitter after the race and summed up his day perfectly.
P7 with car beat to 💩…
I’ll take that. 🤙
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) October 14, 2018