Daytona Shootout: Jimmie Johnson preview

The 2009 Sprint Cup Series season commences Saturday night, Feb. 7 with the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, followed by qualifying on Sunday for the Feb. 15 Daytona 500. Three-time champion Jimmie Johnson hopes to earn his second...

The 2009 Sprint Cup Series season commences Saturday night, Feb. 7 with the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, followed by qualifying on Sunday for the Feb. 15 Daytona 500.

Three-time champion Jimmie Johnson hopes to earn his second victory in the non-points race after taking top honors in the 2005 event. Johnson, who finished third in last season's race, has never finished outside the top-10. The 28-driver field will draw for starting positions on Thursday night.

Johnson will look to add a third pole position to his Daytona 500 resume in Sunday afternoon's qualifying session. He led the field to the green flag in his 2002 Daytona 500 debut and again last season.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:

Talk about being a part of this year's Bud Shootout. "Without any testing this year, the Shootout is going to be a great practice session for all the teams. It's always been a benefit to be a part of it, but this year probably more than ever. I'm really excited to get back in the car and get back racing. I've been eagerly awaiting the start of our season and that's really the first part of it."

How important is qualifying and starting position at Daytona? "These days your starting position and track position in general have been very, very important at Daytona. These cars punch such a big hole in the air that from fifth on back you can't really even stay in the draft once the tires get old. If you can start up front and stay up front it'll really do a lot for you, especially in the daylight hours. Once the sun goes down I think the grip comes back to the track and it's a little easier to stay in the draft. The start of the race last year we were really spread out and that front starting position was really important."

How was the off-season? "We've been busy. There have been some neat opportunities based on our third championship, so there's been a lot going on. Nick (Lachey) and I were down in Tampa for our Super Skins tournament and the Super Bowl last weekend, so I was excited about that. I went to the BCS championship game to watch OU in Miami and that was a good time. Chani and I went on a great vacation and got away for a little bit. So it's been a good mixture of business and pleasure."

BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT RACE NOTES

Chassis

* Johnson will pilot chassis No. 457 in Saturday's race. The car was last driven to a runner-up finish at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2007.

* Johnson drove the backup chassis, No. 474, to a ninth-place finish at Talladega last October.

-credit: hm

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson