Jimmie Johnson Needs Strong Run at Bristol Motor Speedway

Luke KrmpotichContributor IIMarch 15, 2011

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 21:  Jimmie Johnson (R), driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates with crew chief Chad Knaus (L) in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 21, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson is in need of a strong run on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway after struggling two weeks ago at Las Vegas. A four-time Vegas winner, Johnson never got the handle on his car en route to a 16th place finish.

Jimmie Johnson is known as one of NASCAR's top closers, often coming out of nowhere to win races after running mid-pack most of the day. At one point, that seemed to be happening in Vegas, but after climbing into the top 10, Johnson had a poor pit stop and lost track position. He never recovered, and finished outside the top fifteen with an ill-handling race car.

Following the first three races of 2011, Jimmie Johnson has only one top-10 run and sits twelfth in the points. After that disappointing start, can Johnson use Bristol as a place to get his season on track? The Lowes team is always strong on short tracks, and this could be the perfect time for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to kick the 2011 season into high gear.

This isn't the first time the five-time defending series champion has had a difficult beginning to the season in recent years. In 2008, Johnson finished 29th at Las Vegas. That year, he ran even worse than his most recent run there, falling an embarrassing two laps off the lead lap and dropping to 14th in the standings in the process.

However, those struggles served as a wake-up call to the Lowes racing team. Johnson went on a hot streak in the races following his Vegas difficulties. He led laps in five of the next six races, sat on the pole at Bristol, and scored three top five finishes, including his first win of 2008 at Phoenix.

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus should be sufficiently motivated after their disappointing run at Las Vegas two weeks ago. They need a good run, and history is on their side.

Last March, Johnson got his first career win at Bristol last March. To do so, he had to beat Kurt Busch, who had dominated most of the race. Johnson charged from sixth to first in the closing laps in an impressive display of tenacity and driving ability.

Johnson and his team are searching for the mojo that has been missing from the 48 team so far this season, and Bristol could be the right place to recapture his usual feeling of dominance.

Even if Johnson doesn't score a second career Bristol victory this Sunday, a strong run would move him into the top ten in the standings. Look for Johnson to run near the front, and don't be surprised if he finds Victory Lane once again.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.