Jimmie Johnson got what he needed Monday. He didn’t win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, but a third place was something to celebrate.
It’s now been 31 races since the seven-time champion has visited victory lane and had only one top 10 finish this season heading into Bristol.
Johnson came into Bristol as the defending winner of the race and as the active driver with the most wins at the high banked half mile oval.
Friday was and up and down day for Johnson however. After scoring a 17th place starting spot, a flat tire sent Johnson to the rear of the field for Sunday’s delayed start. After avoiding several crashes and a 24-hour weather delay, Johnson charged towards the front and for the first time in many races he was in contention for the win.
“Definitely a strong race car,” Johnson said. “We’ve been talking about our cars performing better and driving better and creating speed the last three weeks or so, but to finally back it up with a solid finish is exactly what we needed. And to see my teammates with positive comments about their cars the last few weeks and some good results yielding from all of that, we definitely have it rolling in the right direction.”
That right direction left Johnson with a third-place finish Monday.
“Last weekend there was a lot of excitement with the speed in our car,” Johnson said. “But we just had some bad luck on track and on pit road and a variety of things that went on. And to really be so buttoned up on race calling, pit stops, what I did in the car, the whole thing, I really feel like we’re rolling in the right direction now.”
It was the first time Johnson has finished in the top five since he also finished third at Dover last October and gives him momentum that he needs moving forward.
“I think most situations momentum does carry you up or down,” Johnson said. “If things seem to be going wrong, they continue for a while. Sometimes it’ll turn around, you just don’t know when. And I think in most cases, you’re right.
“I have experienced it in my career where we have had different dry spells, and we’ll get the car going well, and I’ll make a mistake, or the car going well and we have a bad pit stop, or just unlucky, and it takes a little while ‑‑ I can’t explain why or how, but it takes a little while to get the momentum rolling in the right direction, and I think today was ‑‑ the last two days was a big step in the right direction for us.”