LAS VEGAS — If a twelfth-place end, one lap down, can ever be thought-about heroic, Jimmie Johnson had such a end in Sunday’s Pennzoil four hundred at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The seven-time Monster Power NASCAR Cup Collection champion entered the race a dismal thirty fifth within the standings after crashes within the first two races of the season, at Daytona and Atlanta.
And Sunday didn’t begin on a excessive word. Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet failed prerace inspection 3 times, costing the team the providers of automotive chief Jesse Sauders, who was ejected from the occasion. Johnson began the race from the thirty seventh place and went a lap right down to race winner Kevin Harvick on Lap 34.
Prerace inspection for the 48 automotive. (Getty Photographs)
PENNZOIL four hundred: Race highlights in SN’s stay weblog
All through the race, nevertheless, Johnson was capable of keep far sufficient forward of Harvick to remain one lap down, notably in the course of the lengthy inexperienced-flag run that made up the second stage. Injury to the entrance finish of the automotive additionally was an obstacle.
However Johnson acquired again on the lead lap because the “fortunate canine” (highest scored lapped automotive) beneath the fourth warning and salvaged the twelfth-place end. It was a small step, however a big one.
One of many keys to Johnson’s recovery was endurance — resisting the urge to overdrive the automotive.
“On the finish of final yr, and even in Atlanta, I used to be making an attempt too arduous,” Johnson stated. “Simply giving one hundred pc and driving the automotive the place it’s at and bringing it house is what I want to start out doing.
“I have been making an attempt to hold it, and I’ve crashed extra automobiles within the final six months than I’ve actually in any six month stretch or entire yr stretch. (I am) simply making an attempt to drive it one hundred pc and never step over that line.”
Reid Spencer writes for the NASCAR Wire Service.