CONCORD, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson earned his first top-five result of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finishing fifth at the 1.5-mile track.
Johnson clipped the wall in the latter part of Stage 3, which knocked precious seconds off his time. However, he said the effort from his crew and his maneuvering in the end is what earned secured him a finish in the top five.
“It was a strong day," Johnson said. "With about 15 to go or so, I got into the outside wall and lost some spots. But we didn’t have a strong enough tire rub to cause any problems. We put rights on before that final restart. Chaos was happening in front of me and I was able to sneak through to get a top-five finish.”
The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE said he and his team are "close" to earning his first win in more than two years, but there still are some kinks to work out.
“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it," Johnson said. "We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”
Johnson hovered in the top 10 for the majority of the race, even breaking into the top three. He credited the effort behind Chevrolet and his team in giving him a better car to handle, compared to the model from recent seasons.
“Behind the scenes, I could just see how things were coming together. Largely, the effort Chevrolet put in to this Camaro body," Johnson said. "The fact that three big Chevrolet teams worked so closely together to get the smartest people in the room to get the best body on this race car.
"Also, the other piece is (crew chief) Cliff Daniels. He didn’t have much time last year to get up to speed. Watching him through the off season, seeing where his mindset was, I knew we were going to start the year strong. It’s going to be a good year.”
Johnson will get another chance to win this Sunday, when he travels to his home track in Fontana, California.