Jimmie Johnson snags top-five at Las Vegas

Photo By: Rachel Schuoler / Kickin' the Tires

By Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson capped off a successful weekend in the desert with a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400. 

Johnson’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE showed speed right out of the gate as he paced the field in final cup practice at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday with a lap of 179.432 mph.

Rain cancelled qualifying as the field was set by the rule book. This placed Johnson 18th on the starting grid for Sunday’s event.

As the laps started to tick off in the desert, Johnson worked his way up into the Top-12 only six laps in, reporting early on that his No. 48 was loose in turns three and four as well as traffic.

Lap-25 brought out a competition caution with Crew Chief Cliff Daniels calling for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.

As the caution flag flew to end Stage 1, Johnson found himself scored ninth on the scoring pylon. 

Johnson’s Chevrolet remained under loose conditions in stage two, but he found himself scored seventh as the stage concluded. 

The yellow waved on lap 219 with the team taking the wave around as several cars ahead chose not to pit. With 30 to go and a potential tire rub from possible contact on the restart the team prepared in case Johnson had to make an unscheduled pit stop.

The No. 48 sustained rear quarter damage, however, no smoke or no tire rub was seen. He kept on and worked his way back into the top-10 running order with 20 laps remaining.

A late race caution with six laps remaining saw Johnson come down pit road for right side tires. He would line up ninth on the restart with three laps remaining.

Johnson finished the event fifth, his first top-five since the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway last July when he finished third. 

“Strong day, sadly with 15 to go or so I got into the outside wall off of two and lost some spots,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have enough tire rub to cause any problems. We put rights on before that final restart. Chaos was happening in front of me, I was able to sneak through and advance to get a top-five finish.”

Post-race Johnson said they’re still trying to understand the new Camaro body, but that things are coming together. 

“We’re trying to 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 down force track, the guys did a really nice job,” said Johnson. 

Next up on the schedule is Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. A home track for Johnson who hails from El Cajon, California.

In 25 previous NCS starts at the track, Johnson has six wins, 13 top-five’s, and 17 top-10 finishes.

His most recent win came back in 2016, but he will look to change that come Sunday afternoon, 

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