Concord, NC – Jimmie Johnson is no stranger to success at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 35 career starts at the track, Johnson has finished in the top-10 a staggering 22 times (62.9%).
Piloting his Ally Patriotic scheme, this success continued in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
Beginning 15th, he worked his way up to tenth on a restart about halfway through the caution-filled first stage. While he would drop back to 14th shortly after due to trying different pit strategies, he climbed up to eighth by the time the green-checkered flag waved.
Johnson narrowly missed out on stage points with 11th-place finishes in each of the middle two stages. Stage 2 was arguably his best stage of the night. Just nine laps into the stage, the No. 48 had reached fourth-place and stayed near there for about the next 40 laps. Following a caution on lap 171, he fell to sixth and was outside the top-10 by lap 190. Despite the 11th-place finish in Stage 2, the first 50-60 laps of this stage were Johnson’s best long run of the night.
This top-10 was the result of some impressive driving as Johnson encountered a few issues in Stage 4. Running 13th with 86 laps to go, the seven-time champion briefly fell to 14th. He continued to battle and found seventh with 30 laps remaining but hit the wall slightly with 15 to go. Benefiting from a well-timed caution, he restarted eighth with five to go and held this position until the checkered flag.
Even with the late incident, Johnson was pleased with how most of the night unfolded. “To have that trouble late and slip to eighth is good,” he said. “We stayed in the mix for most of the night, so that was encouraging. We’re going the right way.”
While his winless streak extended to nearly two years, this was Johnson’s fifth top-10 of 2019 and his second in a row. It was a strong night for Rick Hendrick as all four of his cars finished in the top-10. Johnson believes that Hendrick is getting closer to competing for wins on a weekly basis. When asked if the team is closing in on better finishes, he replied, “Yeah, we are. We took a more basic approach to things this weekend and they really paid off well in the race for us.”
Perhaps next Sunday will be the day this drought ends. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) heads to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400. In 34 starts at “The Tricky Triangle,” Johnson has three wins and 20 top-10’s. His most recent win at the track came in 2013.
Military hero honored on Johnson’s Chevrolet Camaro
NASCAR’s Memorial Day tribute to our nation’s military is unmatched by any other professional sport. In addition to the patriotic schemes, each car featured the name of a fallen service member on Sunday night. Johnson’s camouflage Camaro honored the late Army Sgt. Richard Donlan. A Hampton, VA native, Donlan died in combat in Vietnam in 1969 at the age of 23.
Johnson’s brother-in-law died while training in the Armed Forces and his grandfather served in World War II, so the NASCAR Salutes initiative hits especially close to home for him.
“The sacrifices those families make for our freedom, there is no way to say thank you enough,” Johnson said. “I think that is what makes this all so special…It’s our turn to say thank you.”
Without these men and women, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the things we do every day. As always, well done, NASCAR.
Follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.