LAS VEGAS — Jimmie Johnson knew he had to make up ground quickly after a disastrous trip to Daytona.
He’s done just that and now has to do something race car drivers don’t like much: wait.
Johnson finished second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, unable to catch winner Tony Stewart on four restarts over the final 34 laps.
The five-time Sprint Cup champion has made a nice recovery after his problems in Daytona, but the big news could come Tuesday, when NASCAR is expected to rule on Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal of suspensions and penalties against the team.
“We worked so hard over the off-season on our cars to put speed in our cars, make them comfortable and consistent so I can get in there and not be on edge driving it,” Johnson said. “We’ve achieved that goal.”
Johnson had a rough start this year after having his worst season in NASCAR in 2011. His car failed inspection on the first day of Speedweeks at Daytona and he was involved in a wreck the second lap of the Daytona 500.
Two days after the race, Johnson was penalized 25 points, and his crew chief Chad Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended six races, along with car chief Ron Malec.
Knaus and Malec have been able to work the past two races during the appeal and the No. 48 car has been strong, picking up a fourth-place finish last week at Phoenix.
ADDINGTON WINS: Steve Addington didn’t think he’d feel pressure after becoming Stewart’s crew chief. He had been at Penske Racing, where there was pressure every week, so he figured it would be no different with the defending Sprint Cup champion.
It was a lot tougher than he thought it would be.
“It’s a big relief to know that you’re the difference in the race team right now,” Addington said after his first win with Stewart at Las Vegas. “Everybody’s been awesome. There was no one putting the pressure on me but myself. I really didn’t realize how much I put on myself going to work with a championship team the very next year.”
Stewart had been criticized for switching crew chiefs after winning a title and it seemed to grow after a difficult start to the season.
Stewart finished 16th at the Daytona 500 and dropped to 22nd last week at Phoenix when he couldn’t re-fire his car after turning it off to save fuel in the closing laps.