While a 12th-place finish isn’t something Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team normally would celebrate, Sunday’s finish was significant in one aspect.
It was the first time this year Johnson had not crashed or spun in a race.
It has been a rough start for the seven-time champion and the No. 48 team.
His bad luck began in the Clash in Daytona to open the season. He was less than half a lap from completing that event before he was collected in an incident, marking the seventh consecutive year he’s been in a crash in that race.
Things didn’t get better for Johnson in his qualifying race at Daytona a few days later. A tire issue led to his accident in that event.
Matters only got worse for Johnson when he was collected in a crash on the last lap of the first stage in the Daytona 500. It led to a 38th-place finish to open the season.
Things were not good again for Johnson the following week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. While running a lap down, Johnson spun in Turn 2. He finished 27th.
All that led to Las Vegas. Johnson avoided the troubles he had previously. Still, it was not an easy day. He fell a lap down early and lost another lap before coming back for his best finish of the season. Afterward, Johnson was asked how he got through that race.
“You just go,” he said. “There is nothing you can do. At the end of last year and even in Atlanta, I was trying too hard. Just giving 100 percent and driving the car where it’s at and bringing it home is what I need to start doing. I have been trying to carry it, and I’ve crashed more cars in the last six months than I have really in any six-month stretch or whole year stretch. Just trying to drive it 100 percent and not step over that line.”
Sunday’s race marked just the second time in the last seven races (dating back to last year and including the Clash and his qualifying race) that Johnson had not crashed or spun in an event.