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Jimmie Johnson finding new way to handle social media trolls

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — In the midst of the longest winless streak of his career (yes, he knows, he doesn’t need to be reminded), Jimmie Johnson is taking a different approach.

To social media, that is.

Johnson’s timeline has included an inspirational quote from former baseball great Babe Ruth in recent weeks.

Johnson hasn’t suddenly become a fan of Ruth, it’s more of a coincidence.

“Google search is my friend,’’ Johnson said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway of how he found the quote.

Johnson admits he’s taking a different approach while in a 30-race winless streak. He and his Hendrick Motorsports team have struggled for months. Johnson has one top-10 finish in his last 13 races, dating back to last season. He has not led a lap this season.

His lack of success has given social media trolls ammunition against Johnson, who is taking a different approach in how he responds.

“I’ve had a fun approach in the past of finding trolls and singling them out,’’ Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Man, there’s enough damn negativity in the world, I’m going to take a little shift on it,’ and thought it would be best to find some inspirational quotes to kind of reflect where I’m at and what’s going on.

“I think that’s been a more mature approach in a sense. I’ve just been trying to project positive vibes instead of falling into the trap of negativity.’’

Johnson said he understands the questions about he and his team while they’ve struggled.

We have high expectations for ourselves, first and foremost; and we think that we should be in a position to win races every year and compete for race wins each weekend,’’ he said. “So, I think within that there’s a lot of fair questions being asked. But I think there is overreaction by fans and media on that last upper percentile of it, especially all the kind and wonderful people on social media and the things that they have to say.’’

Johnson saw positives last Friday and Saturday at Texas in practice and qualifying but said the race didn’t go as well before he was eliminated by a crash.

“We didn’t have a clean race day on Sunday and had a bunch of different problems that set us back and got us in a wreck,’’ he said.

So what is ailing the No. 48 team?

“I can’t put blame in one place,’’ Johnson said. “It would be unfair to say that it’s a manufacturer’s fault and responsibility. I think there is responsibility in all areas. I think we can all bring more to the table and all do a little better job. If we knew what button to push, we would have kept that five in a row (championship) streak alive and kept going.

“On top of the things that we can control within our own walls as a race team, the product has changed. We’re in different cars; tires change…what other teams do, there’s just a lot going on. By no means am I content with where I’m at and where this team is at in our performances, but we can’t work any harder. Manufacturer. Driver. Crew Chief. Team. Organization. We can’t. We are literally working around the clock and doing anything and everything we can. So, at some point you have to say, we’re all in. We just need time. We’ll get there.’’

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Kyle Larson wins Bristol Xfinity race in overtime

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Kyle Larson held off Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier in an overtime finish Friday night to win the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Larson led 202 of 310 laps and swept both stages on the way to his fourth Xfinity win of the season and 12th of his career.

The top five was completed by Cole Custer and Joey Logano.

The win was Larson’s first at Bristol in 18 Cup and Xfinity starts (including six top-five finishes in his previous eight Xfinity races at the track). Larson has won in four of his six starts this year (and didn’t finish the other two).

Larson dominated after pole-sitter Kyle Busch wrecked from first after leading the first 69 laps.

“It feels really good, I just wish Kyle Busch wouldn’t have had his troubles so I could have raced him,” Larson told NBCSN. “It still feels really good to win a race here at Bristol finally. I’ve been close so many times. This is my best track by far, this and Homestead.”

The overtime finish was set up by a Daniel Hemric wreck with two laps to go in the original 300-lap distance.

“We had that yellow there coming to two to go, I was like, ‘Man, again. Again I’m going to lose one here late,” Larson said. “We were able to get an average restart and get the win.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Larson

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier earned his career-best 10th consecutive top 10 … Cole Custer placed fourth for his best Bristol finish in four starts … Michael Annett placed seventh for his first top 10 of the season …  JA Junior Avila placed 20th in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch was having a good night until he tagged the wall around Lap 66 while leading. On Lap 70, he lost a tire and got into the wall, causing enough damage to end his night. He finished 36th … Spencer Boyd and Vinnie Miller wrecked to bring out the second caution on Lap 105. Miller caused another caution on Lap 160 … Chase Briscoe was eliminated when he spun and hit the inside wall on Lap 142. He placed 34th.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I’d love to race him on dirt. I ain’t done much of that. ” – Kyle Larson on Christopher Bell

WHAT’S NEXT: Johnsonville 180 at Road America at 3:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 25 on NBCSN.

Starting lineup for Cup Bristol night race

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Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green flag in Saturday night’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:46 p.m. ET).

Larson starts from the pole position for the third time this year.

Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and William Byron rounded out the top five.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Kyle Larson on pole for Cup race at Bristol

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Kyle Larson won the pole position for Saturday’s Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:46 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a top speed of 127.792 mph around the half-mile track.

Larson bested Chase Elliott (127.665) and Kyle Busch (127.639) to earn his third pole of the season and the seventh of his career.

Paul Menard and William Byron rounded out the top five. Menard matched his best Bristol start from 2011 while Byron earned his career-best qualifying result in 24 starts.

“The top five there was tight,” Larson told NBCSN. “I saw William run his .04 there before I went out. ‘That’s going to be hard to beat.’ I would never have thought three other guys would squeeze between him and I for first and second. That shows how tough our sport is and our series is.”

Larson’s previous poles this year were at Dover and Sonoma. He has started on the front row in three of the last four Bristol races.

The top 10 was rounded out by Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Jimmie Johnson qualified 13th. He was followed by Erik Jones, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon.

“We were really fast in the first round, it just didn’t really transfer over to the second round,” Jones, who won his first career pole in this race last year, told NBCSN. “Lost a lot of grip, lost a lot of speed. I think going early, the track was still a little bit hot, and we didn’t have quite a car that was ready for that.”

AJ Allmendinger qualified 25th and was followed by Kasey Kahne and Bubba Wallace.

B.J. McLeod failed to qualify.

Click here for qualifying results.

Kyle Busch wins Bristol Xfinity pole

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Kyle Busch will start first in tonight’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:28 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after posting a top speed of 124.686 mph in qualifying.

It is Busch’s first pole in seven starts this season. It is his sixth Xfinity pole at Bristol.

The top five is completed by Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Matt Tifft.

Logano’s fourth-place start is the worst of his five Xfinity starts this year.

Elliott Sadler will start sixth, his best start at Bristol since 2014.

Chase Briscoe, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott, Ryan Reed, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain were among those who did not advance to the final round.

Michael Annett will start 22nd after he spun and made light contact with the wall late in Round 1. He advanced to Round 2 but did not make a qualifying attempt.

Click here for qualifying results.