Jimmie Johnson scored his second consecutive victory, taking the lead with 21 laps in the rain-delayed Food City 500 on Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It’s been a quite good three weeks for Jimmie Johnson.
Two weeks ago, he won his first race of 2017 at Texas. Then he went to Mexico on the Cup Series’ first off-weekend of the year. And in Monday’s rain delayed race at Bristol he passed Kevin Harvick and pulled away from Clint Bowyer for a second win in as many races.
Johnson powered the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to his second straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, leading 81 of the 500 laps. His 82nd win of his career was his second on the .533-mile Tennessee track.
The victory moved Johnson another step up NASCAR’s all-time win list, putting him one triumph behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and two back from fellow inductees Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
“That’s just mind-blowing,” said Johnson, who sits seventh on the all-time list. “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.”
Clint Bowyer took second place in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford, 1.199 seconds behind the race winner in his best finish since running second at Richmond on April 27, 2013. His late-race boost secured his second top-five finish of the season, but wasn’t enough to unseat Johnson from the top spot.
“It is frustrating, you could see him out there,” Bowyer said, “but dammit, you’d think he’d get tired of winning all these races.”
Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano completed the top five.
Pole-starter Kyle Larson seemed poised for a top-five finish after leading the opening 202 laps and snagging a Stage 1 win, but a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 423 knocked him back to 17th in the running order. He rallied to a sixth-place finish and maintained his lead in the season-long standings.
“Yeah, disappointed in myself,” said Larson, who emerged with a 27-point lead over Chase Elliott in the standings. “I think I speed on pit road every single time I come to Bristol. So, got to clean that up.”
Martin Truex Jr., the Stage 2 winner and leader of 116 laps, was also bitten by a speeding penalty on pit road with 34 laps remaining. The infraction shuffled him to 15th place for the final run to the finish. He wound up eighth.
“I thought I was exactly where I was the time before, so the time before must have been close,” Truex said of his pit road timing. “Typically we don’t get many speeding penalties for this team, but today we were just pushing the issue trying to get a win and sometimes they’ll get you.”
Several other big names finished well off the pace after a variety of pitfalls. Kyle Busch, a five-time Bristol winner, rallied from a brush with the wall into the top 10, but a second hit sidelined him after 383 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran just 218 laps before his day was done, a Turn 1 wall crunch and a broken oil cooler ending his race.
Brad Keselowski, a two-time winner this year, and Ryan Blaney also spent extended time behind the wall with steering issues.
The event was delayed one day because of persistent rain on Sunday. The series’ next race is the Toyota Owners 400 (30th April, Sunday, 11 p.m. IST, DSport) at Richmond International Raceway.