Jimmie Johnson didn’t need to go out on top to end his career. He was a lock for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, regardless of how 2020 played out.
While it’s too early to pencil Johnson in as a championship favorite, a win is no longer far-fetched.
Jimmie Johnson puts on strong drive to finish Fifth at Las Vegas
While he didn’t lead a lap in the Pennzoil 400, he put on the best overall performance that I’ve seen from the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team in quite a long time.
He ran inside the top-10 for most of the afternoon. His average running position was 9.7 (eight-best of the race) and he spent 91.8 percent of the race in the top-15 (seventh-best), according to NASCAR’s post-race loop data.
Furthermore, he capitalized on a late caution and came onto pit road four new tires.
Johnson took advantage of the chaotic final restart, when teammate William Byron made contact with Ryan Blaney in Turn 1.
He drove under the cars making contact and pulled up to the top-five.
“Man, every restart, you just have to get everything you can,” Johnson said. “Once your momentum’s broke and guys fall in line, it’s so hard to generate enough of a run and energy to pass somebody. We’re just driving like fools getting started.”
Byron triggered a multi-car wreck on the final lap and brought out the caution. As a result, Johnson earned his first top-five finish since last July at Daytona International Speedway.
“Our Ally Chevrolet was really strong, today,” Johnson said. “Scored points in both stages and a nice top-five. I think maybe fourth. From where I was sitting, I thought we were fourth.”
Johnson was among six Chevrolet drivers to finish inside the top-10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While not among them, teammate Chase Elliott swept the stages and had the strongest car of the race.
“To see four or five Chevy’s up front mixed in with those Fords, today, was really nice, I think a telling sign of what we needed to get us up front,” Johnson said.
Johnson leaves Las Vegas 11th in the overall series points, and will try to continue his strong start to the year next week at Auto Club.