CONCORD, N.C. – For Jimmie Johnson, some frustration early in last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway ultimately led to confidence in the No. 48 team’s resolve.
As he battled a damaged No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 all night long under the lights, he was able to recover to garner a top-20 finish.
After starting the race in 30th, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was able to advance to the verge of the top 20 midway through the opening segment. However, contact with a competitor on Lap 81 brought out a caution and damaged the No. 48 Chevy.
“After the first incident, it was just too hard to make up ground after that,” Johnson explained. “We just had so much damage. To come back 19th is respectable. The other part is that we had to get off strategy because we lost two laps. So, the first two-thirds of the race, we were running old tires against the field a lot of the time trying to get laps back. It was just one of those nights.”
Following the incident at the start of the race, at the beginning of Stage 2, the driver and his team worked to try to fix all the issues that stemmed from the collision. Just when the team thought they were getting the break they needed to get a lap back, the driver received damage to the side of his Chevy that sent him back to pit road multiple times.
“On the restart, the (No.) 21 (car) got into the side of me and knocked the left front fender in and we had to pit again,” Johnson said. “We had just gotten the lucky dog, but we had to pit again because the left front was rubbing.”
Despite the multiple curveballs thrown at the No. 48 team, they captured a 19th-place finish. Johnson praised his group for working through the adversity and performing well under the pressure.
“For as beat up as that car is, and the runs we did on old tires, we had a good night and just a lot of bad luck,” Johnson said. “I have to look at the truth inside of this team and how strong this team is, how good this team is. I know the results are coming, it’s just a series of bad luck and it all started with a bad qualifying effort. We have to clean things up, for sure. This team is really starting to jell and come along.”
Following the off weekend, two more races remain in the regular season – the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson has won three or more times at both tracks, and he’ll look for strong runs once again as he currently sits 26 points behind the cutoff line to make the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
“I’ve got one more shot,” the driver said. “It’s so hard to predict. These are two great tracks for me, two places that I love. We’ll see what happens.”