Jimmie Johnson’s winless drought spanning above 100 races continued following the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Nonetheless, it was a stellar night for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and nine-time Martinsville winner as he came away with his first stage win of the season, led 70 laps and settled in the top 10.
Johnson started 21st based on a random draw, but was able to carve his way into the top 10 by the 30th lap. Ten laps later, Johnson peaked his way into the top five. Under the competition caution scheduled on Lap 60, Johnson pitted and exited in sixth. The driver of the No. 48 Ally/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet spent the majority of the first stage running in the top 10. Under a late caution in the closing laps of the first stage, Johnson moved up to fourth. In a 10-lap dash to the conclusion of the first stage, Johnson managed to move to third, where he was able to finish and pick up a handful of stage points.
The second stage was where Johnson flexed his muscles. Remaining on track with some of the leaders, Johnson started the stage in third but moved into second over a long green-flag run. By then, his other three Hendrick Motorsports teammates (Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron) were running inside the top 10. Then on Lap 202, Johnson, who gained ground on race leader Joey Logano when Logano encountered lapped traffic, made his move to the lead. As the green-flag run continued, Johnson was able to maintain a healthy advantage over the field, leading as high as two seconds. His advantage worked to perfection as Johnson remained uncontested and was able to cruise to the win in the second stage, his first stage win of the season.
When the final stage started with 229 laps remaining, Johnson was quickly overtaken by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Logano. Fifteen laps later, Johnson dropped back to fifth. Throughout the final stage, Johnson raced within the top five but started fading as he was scored in 10th with 75 laps remaining. With the race continuing to run under green, Johnson was unable to mount a late rally back to the front as he settled in 10th, watching from a distance as Martin Truex Jr. emerged victorious.
With his sixth top-10 result of the season and the 25th of his illustrious career at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson jumped from 13th to 11th in the standings and is 151 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick.
“We had a great car tonight and then, just didn’t keep up with the track,” Johnson said. “My pit crew was on fire, they got me spots every time on pit road. We are gaining on it, so I wish the result was better but overall, still a positive night.”
Next on Johnson’s schedule is Homestead-Miami Speedway, a track where Johnson celebrated his seven Cup championships but has not finished in the top 10 since winning the race and his seventh title in 2016. The race will air on June 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.