Jimmie Johnson still knows how to get to Victory Lane at Texas, even from the back of the field on a track that had changed significantly since his first six wins there.
And while heating up in the cockpit because of an issue with getting fluids during the race.
“I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane,” Johnson said before going to the infield care center to get three bags of IV fluids after his 81st career victory.
“I feel much better now,” he said after the treatment.
Crew chief Chad Knaus said there was some kind of malfunction with the system in the car, but wasn’t sure what the problem was.
“Jimmie felt like it was an isolated situation,” Knaus said. “We got him cooled off and he’s looking good. He’s ready to go have a weekend off like the rest of us.”
Johnson, who last year won his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series season championship, charged under Joey Logano with 16 laps to go to take the lead. The Hendrick Motorsports driver kept his No. 48 Chevrolet in front.
“I guess I remembered how to drive; and I guess this team remembered how to do it,” Johnson said. “I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day.”
This was the first Cup race in Texas since the 1 1/2-mile facility was completely repaved and changes made to Turns 1 and 2 earlier this year. It was Johnson’s seventh victory at Texas, six in the last 10 races there.
Kyle Larson, the season points leader, finished second for the fourth time this year, but also won at California. Logano, polesitter Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.
Johnson had to start at the back of the 40-car field because of a tire change after a spin in qualifying. He had qualified 24th.
“Oh, probably on the second or third run I knew we were in good shape. From there, off we went,” he said. “It was so tough those first 23 laps in traffic. The air was very turbulent, the track wasn’t very clean.”
Johnson’s only top-10 finish in the first six races this season had been ninth at Phoenix. Earnhardt, his Hendrick teammate, had his first top-five finish since a runner-up at Pocono last June, not long before he missed the last half of the season because of lingering concussions symptoms.
Ryan Blaney won the first two stages and gave Wood Brothers Racing, the oldest active team in NASCAR, its longest front-running car in a race in 35 years. The 23-year-old Blaney finished 12th after leading 148 of 334 laps, the first time the team led more than 100 laps in a race since 1982.
Blaney first got the lead on the second early restart on lap 16, with a somewhat bold move around the outside of Harvick going through the reconfigured Turns 1 and 2, where the banking was reduced and the track widened.
During a caution on a few laps before the end of the second stage on lap 170, Blaney stayed on the track for a shot to win the stage while other cars pitted. Blaney restarted 20th after that stage and his stop, but after working back into the top 10, he overslid his pit on the last caution.
“That last pit stop was pretty discouraging,” Blaney said. “I don’t know what it was there at the end of segment two and that made everybody have split strategies, and we got in the back and couldn’t pass anybody. It was terrible to try to pass people.”