Jimmie Johnson shows speed in strong fifth-place run at Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 23: Jimmie Johnson (48) Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and Kyle Busch (18) Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Toyota Camry battle for position during the late laps of the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube Sunday February 23, 2020 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway provided Jimmie Johnson with just the sort of consistent strong run he needed after two winless seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Driving the new sleeker Camaro introduced into NASCAR’s top series this year, Johnson finished ninth in Stage 1, seventh in Stage 2 and fifth in the race after surviving a chaotic restart with two laps left.

The seven-time champion was upbeat after posting his first top-five result since last year’s July race at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was a strong day,” Johnson acknowledged. “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 (right-side tires) 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…

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it. 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.”

Greg Engle