BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) It was just last month that people were wondering what was wrong with Jimmie Johnson as he got off to a slow start.
How silly it was to worry.
Johnson grabbed a rare victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday, giving him consecutive wins for the 11th time in his storied career. It was just the second career win in Thunder Valley for Johnson, who considers it one of his most vexing tracks.
His Hendrick Motorsorts team hit on something during Saturday's practice for his Chevrolet, and that locked him in for the race postponed a day by rain.
''This track has been really difficult,'' admitted Johnson, who last won at Bristol in 2007. But that Saturday find was ''honestly, it's what I've been looking for for 16 years.''
Johnson also on Feb. 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR's last event prior to Monday. It ended any chatter that the seven-time and reigning champion might not be up for a record eighth title.
Johnson now has 82 career victories, and is just one away from tying Cal Yarborough for sixth on the all-time wins list. Two more would put him alongside Darrell Waltrip.
''That's just mind-blowing,'' Johnson said of his place in history.
Johnson doesn't like Bristol, but it wasn't evident Monday as he contended with Kyle Larson, the points leader and most dominant driver of the day. A speeding penalty on Larson late in the race allowed Johnson to make it look easy in the end. Clint Bowyer finished second and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick was third.
Matt Kenseth was the highest finishing Toyota driver with a very quiet fourth. Joey Logano in a Ford was fifth for Team Penske and Larson rallied to sixth. He had been dropped to 29th in the field after the penalty and making it back to the top 10 was a victory in itself for Larson.
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