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Jimmie Johnson entered the Food City 500 race weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway with one thing in mind: a win. And if he couldn’t get the win, he wanted a solid performance to extend his season-opening streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes and keep him atop the Sprint Cup Series points.
But Bristol had other things in mind. A tire issue with fewer than 50 laps remaining relegated Johnson to a 22nd-place finish.
Johnson started the 500-lap race from the 13th spot and anticipated the Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS to race better than it practiced. He was right. When the green flag waved, five-time Sprint Cup champion Johnson quickly drove into the top-10, where he became a fixture for more than 400 laps. Despite reporting a tight condition on his No. 48 Chevy throughout the afternoon, Johnson climbed as high as second and never fell below eighth as he battled his way around the half-mile bullring.
But as he glided through turn three on lap 455, Johnson’s Kobalt machine suffered a tire problem and slammed into the outside wall. Johnson brought the car down pit road, where the team provided him with fresh Goodyears, allowing him to nurse the car to the end of the race to pick up maximum points.
Johnson hadn’t confirmed the exact issue behind the accident but was disappointed in his result after having such a strong Kobalt Tools Chevy. Johnson fell to third in the series points standings, 15 behind leader Brad Keselowski.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne won the Food City 500 to score his 15th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Bristol.
Kyle Busch finished 1.7 seconds behind Kahne in the runner-up spot, while Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 66 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round four of 36 complete, Earnhardt leads the Hendrick Motorsports stable in the championship point standings. He is second with 157 points, nine out of first. Johnson follows in third with 151 points, 15 out of first. Kahne is next, in seventh with 124 points, 42 out of first. Jeff Gordon is 21st with 90 points, 76 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Auto Club 400 Sunday, March 24 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.