Jimmie Johnson gave praise to his crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team for putting together a car that was great on Saturday.
But due to the weather, Johnson had to wait a day to fully break it in. But when the seven time NASCAR champion was ready, he broke the 48 car in style and patiently, moving to the front of the pack at lap 394, lead two more times including the final lap across the finish line to win the 25th Annual Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday afternoon after rain and flooding postponed the event from Sunday.
Johnson claimed only second victory and 18th top-10 finish in 31 races at the .533 mile oval. It was also the NASCAR champion’s second victory on the 2017 season, his third top-10 finish in 2017 and a bright spot in a flickering season for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson praised his crew and his team owner immediately.
“That’s just mind-blowing,” replied a humbled Johnson following the race. “I wouldn’t be here without Mr. Hendrick’s support. Thanks to him and to Jeff Gordon for believing in me. For Hendrick Motorsports to make this job kind of a family environment for all of us to thrive in has been a perfect environment for me and (crew chief) Chad Knaus, and for the consistent group of guys behind me through all these years has led to the environment to win 82 races, or whatever it is, which is just insane. I’m truly humbled.”
Johnson, now sits seventh on the all-time win list in NASCAR, one victory behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and two back from fellow inductees Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
For the early part of the rain delayed race, it appeared Kyle Larson would dominate the event. Larson would lead 202 laps and pick up a segment one win but the pole sitter admitted in the post race conference that his pit-road speeding penalty cost his No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet team a lot more.
“Yeah, I am disappointed in myself,” replied Larson with a dejected look on his face, sitting in the media center beside the second place finisher Clint Bowyer. “I think I speed on pit road every single time I come to Bristol. I’ve gotta clean that up.”
Larson would manage a sixth place finish after rebounding from the penalty.
Clint Bowyer took second place in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, finishing 1.199 seconds behind Johnson. Bowyer’s late race surge helped the Kansas native pickup a second top-five finish of the season but Bowyer admitted he didn’t have enough to take the top spot from Johnson. Bowyer admitted in the post-race press conference that “you’d think that he’d (Johnson) would get tired of winning all of those races.”
There were nine caution flags for 76 laps during the event. Chris Buescher would bring out the first caution of the afternoon as his No. 37 Bush Beans Chevrolet slammed the wall between turn one and two ending his afternoon after 53 laps.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. would bring out another caution flag on the afternoon as his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet would also slap the wall hard and end the day for Earnhardt and the Hendrick Motorsports team. Earnhardt, Jr. would place 38th with the DNF and add to more woes on the season for the 88 team.
Danica Patrick would be involved in an accident with Landon Cassill and Patrick would get the worst end of the deal as her car had to retire behind the pit wall and Patrick’s day would be over.
The driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1/Aspen Dental Ford complained her car was not the best all day and then she said there was a wreck, “and I was the lucky winner.” Patrick finished 36th.
Rookie of the Year contender Erik Jones would have his left rear quarter panel ripped away after a collision with A.J. Allmendinger in turn four. Kyle Busch, a five time winner at Bristol, would slam the wall hard also in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota and would finish 35th.
Other notables who did had less than sterling performances included the No. 2 Lite Beer Ford driver Brad Keselowski, a two-time winner this year, and the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford driver Ryan Blaney who experienced steering issues at the end of segment one and was not a factor the rest of the day.
On the other side of the finishing order, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano completed the top five, finishing third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Martin Truex Jr., a segment two winner and leader of 116 laps, was also given a speeding penalty on pit road with 34 laps remaining. Truex would place eighth in the final standings.or the final run to the finish. He wound up eighth.
The Monster Energy/NASCAR Cup Series now moves to Richmond International Raceway for another round of short track racing this weekend for the Toyota Owners 400.
Story and Videos by Rod Mullins/Augusta Free Press