Johnson leaves Bristol with "very strong" third-place finish

Image by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images via NASCAR

Johnson leaves Bristol with "very strong" third-place finish


Johnson leaves Bristol with "very strong" third-place finish


Jimmie Johnson praised his team for their performance and attitude after a third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Positioned sixth for the final restart with five laps to go, Johnson was one of many who took advantage of a late collision between Chase Elliott and Joey Logano to gain a few positions. Sunday was Johnson’s best finish of the season, and he ran solidly with the leaders throughout the afternoon and even challenged Kyle Busch for the lead when the race began its final 100 laps.

“Wild and crazy night for sure,” said Johnson. “Very strong performance for us. Really proud of the guys and keeping our chins up through the last four weeks. We’ve had fast cars, really haven’t had the results to show for it. To put together a solid race, start to finish, great pit stops, fast car, be a threat.

“We needed more long runs. There was only one long run in the whole race, and we were battling for the lead with Kyle. I wish there were more long runs because our car didn’t have the short-run speed in it. But we still salvaged a great day out of it with the Ally Chevy.”

Since racing resumed, the results have been up and down for Johnson. He was running well in the first Darlington race, leading in fact, when he crashed at the end of the first stage. The team earned a top-10 finish in the second Darlington race, before being disqualified in the Coca-Cola 600 after a strong performance they thought had ended with a second-place finish. In the second Charlotte race, where Johnson finished 11th, he never seemed comfortable with the balance of the car.

Johnson was one of a few strong Chevrolets at Bristol, with Hendrick Motorsports continuing to show that all four of its cars have improved since last year. The seven-time champion agrees with the assessment others have offered about how the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has changed the game for the manufacturer.

“That new Camaro has been a huge help for us,” admitted Johnson. “I think through last year’s events, and NASCAR taking the three (manufacturers), taking those cars after the race is over, blowing them in the wind tunnel, they saw the situation, and they allowed Chevrolet to build a new Camaro and bring it out to get us up on par with the Toyotas and the Fords. This year we feel like we are much more in the ballpark and much more on an equal with them with the 550 package.”

Having run five races in 14 days, Johnson is excited about the progress being made with his No. 48 team and new crew chief Cliff Daniels. Johnson has an average finish of 17.7 on the season, but the team has consistently been near the front since lately.

“I felt like when the lockdown and quarantine started, we had momentum on our side,” said Johnson. “I was really bummed that we couldn’t see that through. Then to sit on ice for eight, nine weeks, whatever it ended up being, then come back and really actually be stronger than we were before the lockdown happened is really a testament to everybody at Hendrick, the leadership on Cliff’s side, what he’s doing with these crew guys. I felt like we would be good, but we definitely stepped it up after the lockdown lifted, now that we’re back racing.”