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Johnson achieves 500-lap aim.


As crew chief Chad Knaus reminded Jimmie Johnson late in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, sometimes it pays to look at the big picture.

Though Johnson ran in the top five most of the afternoon, the big picture on Sunday simply meant finishing the race near the front of the field. So, when Kyle Busch knifed between Johnson's #48 Chevrolet and the lapped car of Sam Hornish Jr to take the lead on lap 369, the reigning Cup Series champion wasn't concerned. And, when race runner-up Denny Hamlin grabbed the second spot a few laps later, it was still no big deal in the overall scheme of things.

“My deal wasn't to race the #18 and, even when Denny got to me, I let him go,” said Johnson, who jumped four positions to ninth in the Sprint Cup standings, the first time this season he has occupied a Chase-eligible position. “I knew I had a top-three, top-five car. I just wanted to finish this race. I wanted to see all 500 laps.

“If it was [down] to the last pit-stop, and I had a shot at it, throw caution to the wind at that point. Up until then, I needed to figure out how to run 500 laps here, finish up front. That was my goal today, and we did it."

Johnson revealed that the gameplan for Bristol had been cooked up as soon as the previous round, in Atlanta, had finished, the #48 knowing that it needed a strong result to keep tabs on those leading the point standings.

"I think, in general, we needed a weekend like this here," he admitted, "It started two weeks ago, when we went to work on the set-up for this race. We created a plan, stuck to it. Off the truck, the car was quick - we were right on par with everybody and had confidence going into qualifying. Then the weekend just kept building.

"So, now that we've executed from qualifying to the race, we have a very good starting point to come back with, and that's something we haven't had. Every time we've come back, we've been chasing one of our team-mates' ideas, then trying to put my style of set-up under it. The concept on the #24, we would use, but free it up some more. I typically like this, so let's try the #24 set-up with some more of this. We really didn't know just what we wanted.

"This weekend, though, we didn't play that game. We stuck to our guns. I feel, coming back, we'll be much better and be able to come back next weekend."

The #48 Chevy suffered a possible win-stealing glitch during the last pit-stop under caution, but the outcome wasn't as bad as Johnson feared it might have been.



Related Pictures

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Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson side-by-side at Bristol   [pic credit: Getty/NASCAR]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Janssen Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #14 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Butterfinger/Coffeemate Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, races to his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career win with a victory lap and checkered flag, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory with a wave of the chequered flag Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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