Johnson's top-five finish paces Hendrick Motorsports at Bristol
By Gray Caldwell
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Last week, Jimmie Johnson took home a top-10 finish. Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, he made it a top-five result in a return to his familiar blue Lowe’s paint scheme.
Earlier this week, Johnson announced that Lowe’s agreed to change his paint scheme from primarily white to primarily blue, and the change resulted in his seventh top-five finish of the season.
Jeff Gordon was next of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, taking the checkered flag in 16th after fighting through tire rub early in the race.
Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. weren’t as lucky, as both battled damage to their cars. Kahne was able to finish the race, while Earnhardt headed to the garage early. They finished 35th and 39th, respectively.
Below is a recap of how all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared in Saturday night’s race.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 GREAT CLIPS CHEVROLET SS
Recap: Rolling off the grid in 12th position, Kahne moved up a spot in the first 10 laps. On the restart following a competition caution at Lap 60, he was in 17th but quickly jumped up two spots before another caution flag waved one lap later. He continued moving up the leaderboard and after a quick, two-tire pit stop after a Lap-125 caution allowed him to restart in fifth place. Following a caution, Kahne restarted as the leader on Lap 201 due to staying off pit road. He led 40 laps before a loose wheel caused him to fall back and eventually head to pit road under green for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He fell off the lead lap, going two laps down at Lap 337. He took another green-flag pit stop with 100 laps to go, then headed behind the wall due to problems with the right front tire. He returned to the track and was ultimately scored 35th.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
Recap: After starting the race on the outside pole, Gordon took the lead on Lap 38. He went on to lead 17 laps early in the race. He stayed in the top five for the majority of the first half of the race, even while battling tire rub after contact with a competitor on Lap 81. He was able to stay on the track despite the back left tire rub and remained in fourth place at Lap 112. After a caution flag waved at Lap 125, Gordon headed to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He restarted ninth and continued to run in the top 10. At a Lap-201 restart, Gordon took two tires while a number of other cars stayed on the track. At Lap 221, he was in 16th, moving up to 12th by Lap 239. At Lap 337, he was passed to fall a lap behind but remained in the top 20. He was the lucky dog with 69 laps to go, moving back to the lead lap during a caution and restarting in 16th, the position in which he would take the checkered flag.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
Recap: A sixth-place start for Johnson allowed the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS to settle in to a top-five running position early in the race. By Lap 15 he was in fourth position, and that’s where he remained until a competition caution at Lap 60. A speeding penalty on pit road caused Johnson to move to the back of the pack, but another caution on Lap 68 allowed him to move up to the back of the lead lap. At Lap 90 he was up to 23rd position and was moving in the right direction, getting to 18th by Lap 112. Johnson was given another speeding penalty on pit road after a caution at Lap 125, which put him in 26th as the last car on the lead lap. He quickly moved up the leaderboard, however, getting to 15th by Lap 185 and all the way to third on a Lap-201 restart following a caution. He remained in the top 10 for the majority of the remainder of the race. At Lap 337 he moved into third place, and even with a pit stop for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment during a caution, he restarted with 133 laps to go in third thanks to a quick performance by the No. 48 pit crew. With 63 laps to go, he restarted in ninth place, and he continued passing cars, taking the checkered flag in fourth.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS
Recap: Earnhardt began Saturday night’s race in 20th position, and 50 laps in he was up to 14th. Thanks to a two-tire pit stop during the competition caution at Lap 60, Earnhardt was able to jump up 10 spots and restarted in third place. He remained in the top 10, and after another two-tire pit stop after a caution flag waved on lap 125, he restarted in second. But on Lap 160, a competitor involved in an incident made contact with Earnhardt’s No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS, causing the car to have to head to the garage. Earnhardt attempted to return to the track, but was ultimately finished for the evening. He was scored 39th.