The question of whether Hendrick Motorsports is finally turning their season around may have been answered in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway when the organization placed two drivers in the top five for the first time in 2018.
Jimmie Johnson finished third to score his first top five of the season and his first in 14 races.
Alex Bowman finished fifth and earned the first top five of his career.
Bowman’s previous best was a sixth in the 2016 Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the same weekend he scored his first career pole. Driving in relief for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr, it was just that type of race run that encouraged Hendrick to offer Bowman the ride for 2018.
HMS has seemingly struggled with the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. With the exception of Chase Elliott, none of the other drives have managed to record multiple top 10s and these are the first top fives of the year for anyone other than the driver of the No. 9 team.
It took until the fifth race of the season for Johnson to score his first top 10 – a ninth at Auto Club Speedway.
Bowman scored his first top 10 one week later at Martinsville Speedway with a seventh.
William Byron finished 10th last week at Texas Motor Speedway for his first career top 10.
“Yeah, it really is a great boost,” Johnson said. “I’ve said for weeks now that we’re getting better and it’s great to finally have a result to back that up.”
Bowman was happy with his top five as well, but believed a better result was in the offing.
“I think by ourself we had maybe even a faster race car than that,” Bowman said. “I just couldn’t be consistent with it. We were really loose in and my car was really sensitive to traffic. If anybody got within a half a car length of me behind me, it just turned sideways getting in the corner every time. If I could break that gap and get away from them I would drive away, but with them right there I couldn’t do anything. It was interesting trying to fight through that, but glad we finished top five.”