For Jimmie Johnson, Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a race where the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and five-time Atlanta winner had a silent, but consistent run to notch another top-10 result in his swan song season.
Johnson’s race started with the honor of delivering the command for the field to start the engines as he rolled off the grid in 15th and was given a final opportunity to win at Atlanta for the sixth time. When the race commenced, Johnson slowly took his time making his way to the front and had only gained three spots through the first 10 laps.
Through the competition caution on Lap 25, Johnson was still in 12th, but after the pit stops while under caution, he made his first appearance in the top 10. Following a restart on Lap 30 and over a green-flag run spanning more than 20 laps, Johnson remained in the bottom half of the top 10. Once the first round of green-flag stops concluded past the 60-lap mark, stellar work by the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet pit crew kept Johnson in the top 10. Following a late caution for a single-car spin and a restart with six laps remaining in the first stage, Johnson was in eighth and he settled in ninth at the conclusion of the first stage, thus earning valuable points towards the playoffs.
The second stage was where Johnson started to pick up more positions as he made his way to seventh. By Lap 140, Johnson made his way to sixth, but as the long green-flag run proceeded, Johnson would fade back to 10th while battling the handling conditions of his car. With nine laps remaining in the stage, a single-car spin drew a caution as Johnson pitted for air pressure adjustments under the order from crew chief Cliff Daniels. With four laps remaining in the second stage, Johnson restarted 11th, but was able to gain one spot to finish 10th in the second stage and earn another valuable point.
Restarting seventh at the start of the final stage, Johnson kept his Chevrolet situated in the top 10, but was in no contention to battle the top front-runners of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer for the lead. With the rest of the race running green, Johnson ran as high as sixth, but would take the checkered flag in a respectable seventh place, watching from a distance as Harvick cruised to the win.
With his result, Johnson notched his fifth top-10 result of the season and his 17th at Atlanta in his 29th and final start at the 1.5-mile track in Hampton, Georgia. The finish allowed Johnson and his No. 48 team to move from 15th to 13th in the Cup Series regular-season standings, trailing Harvick by 165 points. It was a result that left Johnson satisfied with his run.
“Yeah, it’s a great feeling, especially for the team when they know that they’ve hit on something that works, and what’s impressive is when a team and driver are able to continue for a long stretch of time at a track,” Johnson said. “You think about the various rules packages that have come down the pipe and [Harvick], and its consistently up front here at this track with an open motor, a 750 motor, a 550 motor, different aero packages, they just have a great feel for it, and I’ve certainly had that luxury a few times in my career. I wish it was still going on right now, especially going into Martinsville on Wednesday. I wish this was kind of mid to late 2000s when we had a great advantage there. But you enjoy it while you can.”
Next on Johnson’s schedule is Martinsville Speedway, a track where the seven-time champion has won nine times but he has not finished in the top 10 since winning in October 2016 as he attempts to snap his 105-winless drought dating back to June 2017. The race will air on June 10 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.