When Jimmie Johnson qualified 26th for the Bojangles Southern 500, a lot of people were surprised based on Johnson’s past success at Darlington Raceway.
“Qualifying is very important, but with a 500-mile race it’s not the end of the world,” Johnson commented post-race. “I think with the 20 car (Matt Kenseth) in the years of us making fun of him and poor qualifying efforts and good runs, I’ve been in that category for most of my career, too, with mediocre qualifying runs and good finishes. That’s the good thing with the Cup Series. You get a lot of chances to pit your car and work on it and also make up spots on the track.”
In the beginning of the race it looked as though the qualifying struggles would carry over as Johnson did not make up many positions and even came down pit road twice under one caution for continued adjustments.
However, in typical No. 48 Lowe’s team style, Chad Knaus and crew kept working at the car and when it came to the final 30 laps of the race, Johnson had put himself in a position to win the race.
“We struggled the first run or two of the race, but we got the car turning for me and came to life and really did it the old-fashioned way and kind of drove up through the field before the last pit stop, so proud of the hard work,” Johnson commented.
When Johnson came down pit road under the late caution with 10 laps to go, he chose two tires along with three others while Kevin Harvick chose to go with four cars. Harvick’s decision ultimately paid off as he got the win, while Johnson finished third behind teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
For Johnson, it marks his third top five and fifth top 10 season of the season as he sits fifth in points. However, the spot that stands out to most is in the first eight races this year, Johnson hasn’t victory lane yet. For that to happen, Johnson recognizes improvement needs to happen at his end, beginning with unloading quicker off the bat.
“We seem to find a way come race time to get a good finish and honestly have a shot to win some races. But showing up at the track a little bit closer is key for us,” he commented. “We’re really just trying to get a grasp on these rules, and we go home with what we’ve learned from a previous race, bring a new mousetrap, and unfortunately we’ve had to continue to work on it each week. That’s really our goal is to show up closer.”