For the second consecutive week, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team finished among the leaders.
Johnson finished 10th in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, his fourth top-10 result of the season. He has been on the right side of the leaderboard recently, in both race results and qualifying efforts — he was the fastest Chevrolet driver in final practice at Bristol.
“I feel like, in a sense, we’ve stopped the bleeding,” Johnson said.
In Texas, the seven-time champion earned his first pole since 2016 and his first top-five since May of last year. With two weeks of positives to digest, Johnson admitted he is trying to keep himself from getting too excited as work continues.
“We have good competitive cars [and] we’re in that top-10 mix, which is where we should be,” he said. “From here, I hope we can find another chunk that quickly and put us in that top-five mix consistently. I think we’re going the right way, though, so I’m very optimistic about that, very thankful for that, and celebrating these small victories [which are] getting us ready for the big one.”
Johnson, who last won a Cup race on June 4, 2017, is now winless in his previous 67 starts.
Now 13th in the standings, Johnson has an average finish of 14.5 and has already led more laps in eight races than he did all last season – 64.
Is there is a bigger focus on speed or balance in his car? Johnson said they need to create more grip through the center of the corner to translate into further success.
“We can get the balance on either side, which is a lot like we started the year, but we just have two-tenths the speed in the car,” he explained. “I’m not sure there’s such a thing as free speed, but if we could find another chunk of free speed I’d take it, and we’d be right there in the mix.”