Jimmie Johnson finds speed in Vegas but can’t shake bad luck

Fans at Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway might have had to do a double-take.

After starting 17th and falling back early, Jimmie Johnson charged into the top five, a position he hasn’t occupied for much of the 2018 season.

Johnson was running seventh for a restart on lap 257, but on that circuit he was part of a four-car tangle with Playoff contenders Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet was heavily damaged, and after repairs, he finished 22nd, two laps down.

The seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion leaves Las Vegas 13th in the standings, six points behind Bowman, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

“We could have closed with a top-five finish that would have really helped and given us a cushion,” Johnson said. “Today was really a good day for the Lowe’s team. We had good speed in the car, good pit stops… everything was going well and, unfortunately, cut a right-front tire when we touched the No. 41 (Busch) off of Turn 2.

“I don’t know how next week is going to go (at Richmond), I really don’t, and I sure as hell don’t know how the (Charlotte) Roval is going to go (Sept. 30).  So, sure, we finished higher than some guys, but any cushion we could have gotten today would have been nice.”