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Jimmie Johnson takes step forward with top 10 but says ‘we need more’

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 - Practice

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 08: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway on March 8, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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Jimmie Johnson admits work remains but he could say it after a top-10 finish Sunday at ISM Raceway.

Johnson, whose struggles in the first two races with the new package have been well-chronicled, placed eighth Sunday. It was his best finish since a seventh-place run at Talladega Superspeedway last fall.

“Yeah, definitely a strong performance,” the seven-time Cup champion said Sunday. “We need more. We need to find more, but on a short track where grip is so important our guys did a nice job all weekend long of bringing a little bit more. Excited about that. We weathered the storm on two tires, on four and ended up with a nice top 10.”

Crew chief Kevin Meendering twice called for two-tire stops to help Johnson get track position in the 312-lap race.

Johnson was running 16th when Meendering called for a two-tire stop on lap 41. Johnson restarted third.

The team changed two tires again on a Lap 196 pit stop that put Johnson in the lead. He fell back to third by the time the caution came out for teammate Chase Elliott’s spin on Lap 219. Johnson’s team changed four tires. He restarted 12th behind some cars that took no tires or two tires. Johnson worked his way up to eighth by the finish.

For those who viewed this run as a “victory” for a team that had placed 19th and 24th the past two weeks, Johnson didn’t see it that way.

“No, it’s not a victory, but it’s definitely a solid day for the Ally Chevrolet,” said Johnson, winless in his last 63 Cup starts. “These guys have been working so hard at Hendrick Motorsports to get us more and more and we took a good step in the right direction.

“I even think at Vegas we were better than where we finished. Once we lost track position, we struggled the second half of the race. Atlanta was terrible, can’t say anything different there.

“We are learning each week and I still think we have some catching up to do, but certainly a solid performance. Kevin called a great race, it was really tricky with strategy, two tires, four tires, our pit crew had to adjust mid-pit stop one time and go from four to two and everybody responded really well.”