By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Restarts and late race contact hindered Jimmie Johnson at Bristol Motor Speedway. The seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion ran up front throughout the entire Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
In the mad dash to the finish, Johnson battled with Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher. The tight racing led to contact between the two drivers. Both Buescher and Busch ended up with flat tires, Busch spinning to bring out the final caution of the night. Under that caution, crew chief Chad Knaus was conservative and brought the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to pit road for fresh tires.
On the restart, Johnson would restart on the inside line and when the line failed to move, he was stuck outside the top-10. Despite the setback, he made his way past Trevor Bayne and was able to grab ninth by the time the checkered flag waved.
“At the end it really boiled down to lane choice, the running order, and the lane that you started in” Johnson said. “We got a little off on pit strategy and tried to stay out. We had an inside lane restart which killed us, then had to pit with 15 to go. We got up there to ninth. Decent night.
“It was good. It wasn’t great, and I want to get back to running great. I want to lead laps and compete for wins. We’re moving in the right direction.”
The ninth-place finish is the eighth top-10 finish of the season for Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver remains 14th in the Championship Points Standings, 399 points behind points leader Kyle Busch. Johnson is just 32 points ahead of his teammate Alex Bowman, who holds the cutoff spot for the Playoffs. Only two races remain in the regular season for the 42-year-old to secure a spot inside the Playoffs.