CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson is tired.
“I’m tired of running fifth, I’m tired of running whatever it is,” Johnson said after Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 and his second top five of the season.
A seven-time Cup champion, the checkered flag waved on the 36th Cup race since Johnson’s last victory, on June 4, 2017 at Dover International Speedway. It’s far and away the longest winless streak of his career.
“It feels good,” Johnson said of his result Sunday, “but damn I want to win.”
It was a remarkable outcome for Johnson given the circumstances.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver qualified 23rd, his worst result this season. He had previously started 33rd at Auto Club Speedway after failing to get through inspection.
Johnson rocketed into the top 10, finishing Stage 1 in fifth. Denny Hamlin tagged him and sent spinning in Turn 3 on Lap 120. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet suffered minimal damage to his left rear quarter panel.
He fought back and thanks to offsetting pit stops, Johnson placed eighth in Stage 2.
Then on his second pit stop in Stage 3, his jack malfunctioned, costing him nine spots on pit road.
Johnson returned to the top 10 thanks to the pit stop after Stage 3 before charging to the top five
“We got off on some adjustments today and it was amazing how sensitive the car was, with some minor adjustments the car just lost half a second,” Johnson said. “We had a hard time trying to grasp it and understand it and communicate about it. We put it back to the way it was and it took off and I drove right back up into the top three. Just a very small sweet spot with the car. Luckily, we finished in that sweet spot and got a good finish out of it … We had to overcome a lot tonight.”
Johnson’s top five gives Hendrick Motorsports six for the season.
Hendrick is winless since Kasey Kahne‘s victory in the Brickyard 400 last July.