LAS VEGAS, NV — Jimmie Johnson looked like his oldself again on Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has seen his stats decline year after year. Johnson, hasn’t won a race since 2017 now, a span of 97 races heading into next Sunday’s race at Fontana. But, that streak appears to be on the horizon of coming to an end very soon.
I mean, would you bet against Johnson when he’s driving back to his old ways again? The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished second in his Duel in Daytona, was strong in the Daytona 500 and running up front before being caught up in the Lap 183 “Big One” then found himself in the top 10 literally all day in the second race of the season in Vegas en route to a fifth place result in his No. 48 Chevrolet.
“It was a strong day,” Johnson said after scoring his first top five finish since the Coke Zero Sugar 400 last July. “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 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.”
Johnson, said it was rewarding to see how strong the Chevy drivers were on Sunday. He noted when they left Vegas last year, they were feeling quite defeated.
“Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevy’s up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”
Johnson only had three top five finishes all of last year, he already has one in two starts this year. Furthermore, out of his last five top five finishes, four of which were on 1.5-mile tracks.