An off-week and a rain delay didn’t stop Jimmie Johnson’s quest of his first win at Bristol in seven years.
A day removed from a damped race surface at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, mother nature took a back seat and roaring sounds of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series came to life Monday.
The traditional bottom lane became the preferred choice once again as drivers battled for the best track position possible but the driver in victory lane remained the same.
Like its last stop at Texas Motor Speedway April 9, Jimmie Johnson took control of the closing stages and won the Food City 500 for his 82nd career win.
It’s Johnson’s first win at Bristol since 2010 and the 11th time Johnson has won back-to-back races.
Johnson passed Kevin Harvick with 21 laps to go to secure the win and jumped five positions from 11th to sixth in the standings.
In an interview, Johnson said running the bottom helped him on the short runs.
“The bottom was really where it was in the short run,” Johnson said. “This track has been difficult over the years and we really hit on something in the last practice session by running the bottom. It’s honestly what I’ve been looking for 16 years and we finally figured it out.”
It was the “Kyle Larson Show” the first 202 laps has he not only won stage one, he gave Ganassi Racing its most dominant run.
Since joining NASCAR in 2001, Chip Ganassi has never had a car leading the amount of laps Larson led Monday.
Larson’s day however went backwards as an ill handling car and a speeding penalty kept Larson out of the lead and salvaged a sixth-place effort.
Larson said a quick second red light on his dashboard triggered his pit road speeding penalty.
“I was behind Joey Logano on pit road and he would pull me. I started to run an extra light into my one red,” Larson said. “He was running a lot more mile per hour around the corner. Down the straightaway I was running one red and flashed the second light real quick and that was all she wrote. I knew I gave the race away there.”
Larson said he lucked out on the last pit stop after stage two winner Martin Truex, Jr. also sped on pit road.
“I was surprised that I was able to line up with the opportunity at the end,” Larson said. “We took two tires and the No. 78 sped and it lined us up fourth.”
Larson said had he made the high lane work, he still wouldn’t have enough speed to pass the leaders.
“Even if I was able to get to the lead, I don’t think I would’ve won,” Larson said. “Jimmie and Clint Bowyer were way faster than I was. They were over a straightaway ahead of us at the checkered flag.”
Johnson said he struggled adapting his driving style on the high lane.
“When Larson was on the bottom, it just created an environment on the top and I wasn’t as good,” Johnson said. “Larson not being up there in the first couple of cars, the bottom was where it’s at for the short run.”
Second place finisher Clint Bowyer said he did everything to beat Johnson.
“I gained on Jimmie in the first few laps that I got in second and I was really hard on my stuff,” Bowyer said. “Then you start doing stupid stuff. Trying to free it up and putting more rear brakes that probably not going to work but you’re just desperate in trying anything you can possibly do. I was start getting loose in and I just had to protect my ride. It is frustrating but dammit, you’d think he’d get tired of winning all these races.”
Bowyer is tied with Kevin Harvick for eighth in the standings, 121 points behind Larson.
The Cup drivers will make the five hour travel from Bristol to Richmond, Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Denny Hamlin won the most recent race at 0.75-mile circuit.