JIMMY JOHNSON BACK ON TRACK WITH O’REILLY AUTO PARTS 500 WIN
There was only one way for Jimmie Johnson and the crew of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet to raise their heads at smile after struggles on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. They needed to win, which exactly what the team did after starting last in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.
“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it!,” stated Johnson from Victory Lane. “I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse, and we were just able to execute all day.
“ Oh, it was hot in (the car). I got cooked in the car today. I didn’t have any fluids, so I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I’m so proud of the fight in this race team. I can’t wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and enjoy this.”
While Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney went into the media center to talk about their respective runs, Johnson went to the infield care center to get treated for dehydration.
“Much better now,” said Johnson when asked how he felt after the medical treatment. “ I had heat issues. I got out of the car, and I was really hot, and I felt much better there and was on the right path, and then I was doing an interview with Claire, and I felt my back lock up and then my chest and my arms, and I was starting to cramp everywhere. That was an immediate trip to the infield care center to get some IVs. I had three bags of IV and feeling a ton better now.”
Cramping or not, Larson still wished he would have had a better chance to challenge Johnson for the win.
“(My crew chief) Chad was able to make the right calls, and our car was definitely the best the first half, I thought We just didn't have the track position (on the final restart),” admitted Larson.
Larson felt he needed five more laps to catch Johnson, but wasn't 100 percent sure it would lead to pass for the win. The second place finish meant Larson held onto the points lead over Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. The win moved Johnson to 1tth in the points, a major jump for the 7-time champion.
Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick dominated the first two stages of the 500-mile race with Blaney being the leader at the end of the first two segments. However, leading the second segment led Blaney's day down a negative path.
“In hindsight, to answer your question, that was kind of a judgment call,” said Blaney hen asked about the team's decision to lead the second segment. “You give up a stage win and 10 point and a bonus point for the playoffs to try to set yourself for the end of the race. We thought we had enough time after segment 2 to try to work our way back up through there, and a restart actually after segment 2 really went bad for us We got jumbled up in 1 and 2 and let a lot of cars get by.
“I let a lot of good cars get by like the 48 and 42 and 24, and that hurt us more, I think that anything was that restart after segment 2 when we had to check up big in 1 and 2. I thought we made the right call to stay out there and try to win that segment.
NASCAR's top series takes Easter weekend off before heading into the wild action at Bristol Motor Speedway, the challenges of Richmond International Raceway and then the restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway.