DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Team Lowe's Racing had high expectations for the season-opening Daytona 500. But three-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson encountered bad luck and bad weather on his way to a 31st- place finish at Daytona ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Team Lowe's Racing had high expectations for the season-opening Daytona 500. But three-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson encountered bad luck and bad weather on his way to a 31st- place finish at Daytona International Speedway.
"It was definitely a frustrating day," said Johnson, who qualified seventh for the 51st-annual event. "We battled for a lot of the day to get the car where we wanted it. It was pretty good early but toward the halfway mark we were a little off."
While running in the low 20s, Johnson brought his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet down pit road for a routine green-flag pit stop on Lap 115. Just five laps later, the tire on David Stremme's machine exploded, bringing out a caution for debris and trapping Johnson one lap down.
The race restarted on Lap 123 and Johnson hoped to get his lap back. But before he could get in position to do so, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers made contact in front of him, causing a 10-car wreck in Turn 2.
While he did a 360-degree spin on the track, Johnson escaped the accident without making contact. He brought his car down pit road as a precautionary measure and when the green flag waved again, the Lowe's Chevrolet was lined up 32nd, still one lap down.
Seven laps later, Johnson was finally poised to make a charge to the front when he got his lap back as a result of two cars making contact and bringing out the yellow flag.
But before the 2006 Daytona 500 Champion could make a move, Aric Almirola spun through the backstretch grass, bringing out what would be the final caution of the day.
Before NASCAR was able to get the track cleaned up and send the field back to green, a persistent rain set in.
Drivers made several circuits around the track and then were brought down pit road for a 16-minute red-flag stint before NASCAR called the race.
"We definitely didn't have much go our way," offered Johnson. "It's not the way we wanted to start the season, but it's the first race so it is what it is.
"You never know what to expect in these restrictor-plate races or what the weather will do. Now we'll look ahead to California and see what we can get done there."
Matt Kenseth led one green-flag lap during Sunday's event - the last one. He picked up his first Daytona 500 win and his first Sprint Cup Series victory since Homestead in 2007.
Jeff Gordon was the highest-finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver (13th), followed by Mark Martin (16th). Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line 27th.
Kenseth now leads the driver standings by 20 points over Kevin Harvick. A.J. Allmendinger (-25), Clint Bowyer (-30) and Elliott Sadler (-30) round out the Top 5.
The Sprint Cup Series travels west for next weekend's event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.