BRISTOL, Tenn. — It was just last month when people were wondering what was wrong with Jimmie Johnson after he got off to a slow start.

How silly it was to worry.

Johnson grabbed a rare victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday, giving him consecutive wins for the 11th time in his storied career. It was just the second career win at Bristol for Johnson, who considers it one of his most vexing tracks.

His Hendrick Motorsports team hit on something during Saturday’s practice, and that locked him in for the race postponed a day by rain.

“This track has been really difficult,” admitted Johnson, who last won at Bristol in 2007. But that Saturday find was “honestly, it’s what I’ve been looking for for 16 years.

“We finally figured it out. So, I’m very, very happy. I’ve loved this racetrack from afar … and it’s been a journey since 2000 until now.”

Johnson snapped his season-starting slump April 9 at Texas Motor Speedway. It ended any chatter that the seven-time and reigning champ might not be up for a record eighth title.

“After securing a win (in the last race), it obviously takes a huge load off of your shoulders,” said crew chief Chad Knaus.

Johnson has 82 victories and is just one away from tying Cal Yarborough for sixth on the all-time wins list. Two more would put him alongside Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

“That’s just mind-blowing,” Johnson said of his place in history.

A speeding penalty on points leader Kyle Larson late in the race allowed Johnson to make it look easy in the end. Clint Bowyer finished second, just ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick.

Matt Kenseth was fourth, Joey Logano was fifth and Larson rallied to sixth. He dropped to 29th after the penalty, and making it back to the top 10 was a victory in itself for Larson, who led a career-high 202 laps.

“I knew I gave the race away there,” Larson said of the speeding penalty. “I was surprised that I was able to line up with an opportunity there at the end. I think even if I was able to get to the lead, I don’t think I would have won because Jimmie and Clint were way faster than I was.”

The top 10 was rounded out by Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running 20th with just under 300 laps remaining when he wrecked during a restart after a mechanical issue. He didn’t return to the track.

NASCAR’s most popular driver was second in this race a year ago, but this year he’s still trying to find his way back into contention. He has one top-five finish this season.


Kyle Busch is still seeking his first win of the season after an accident led to a 35th-place finish.

He had been hoping to win his sixth career Cup race at Bristol, and had the speed all weekend to do so.

“I was the fastest one out there those last two runs, picking cars off and driving from the back to the front after we lost our track position the first time,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s fundamentally wrong what we’re doing, but it seems like all the rest of our five (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars are fine.”