A New Spot in the Garage
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 14, 2011) – For the last half-decade, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team never had to look for their spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage each weekend. That will change at 9:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, when the garage officially opens for the season’s first events at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
One of the perks of being a champion is that the team gets the first garage stall and the team transporter is always parked next to NASCAR’s hauler. It may sound like a little thing but, for crew members and drivers, it’s a place of honor and a small perk that makes life a little easier in the garage.
For the first time in five years, however, Johnson will have to look a few more spots down the line for the traditional blue-and-white No. 48 Lowe’s hauler. It’s a spot Johnson and his teammates vow to “Never Stop Improving” on this year.
Another project Johnson hopes to improve on is his Daytona record. “The Great American Race” has obvious career-making implications and Johnson’s win in 2006 certainly helped provide the spark to a season that brought the first of a record-setting five consecutive championships. Could the inaugural race of the 2012 season provide the same spark to get Johnson to an incredible “6Pack,” as the champ has dubbed this season on Twitter (www.twitter.com/jimmiejohnson)?
Johnson’s Daytona International Speedway Quick Stats:
· One win, six top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 20 starts
· His only win came in the 2006 Daytona 500 (with Darian Grubb as crew chief)
· Johnson’s last top-five finish in the Daytona 500 was his win in 2006
· Average start is 9.4 and average finish is 17.0
· Johnson has completed 3,412 of 3,503 laps (97.4%) and has 60 laps led in 20 starts
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
Do you have any specials feelings about not having the first pit stall this year?
“During the test, we lined up based on points. I kind of got confused a few times and drove past my stall. I don’t think it will be the last time I do it, either. If you see me wandering around the garage before the first practice each weekend, it’s probably because I’m looking for our hauler. It’s definitely something I know myself and my team will miss, but it only makes us more motivated to get that spot back.”
On Kasey Kahne as a teammate:
“I’ve been really fortunate that Kasey and I have been friends, really, since we met, since he came into the series and was a part of the Cup Series. He and I have always had a great relationship and friendship. It’s really been the same since he’s come on board and, even through when the announcement was made until now, we’re great friends.
“The relationship has grown, and I’ve spent some more time getting accustomed to Kenny (Francis, crew chief). I didn’t know Kenny other than just some casual passings in the garage area. And I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with him and picking his brain and understanding what he’s about. Two big assets that Hendrick Motorsports picked up, and I look forward to what they can do.”
What do you expect in the Budweiser Shootout this year?
“I think we are going to learn a lot. We didn’t do any multi-car drafting during the test last month, so we will certainly see what our Lowe’s Chevy will do. We were happy with what we saw at the test and I’m excited to get back down to Daytona and get on track. I think we will be competitive and I think it’s going to be a great show for the fans. We may see a few tweaks to the rules after the Shootout, but that’s what’s great. It will only make the Daytona 500 that much better.”
How would you assess your chances of winning another Daytona 500 this season?
“It’s such a special race and I feel very fortunate to have won that race. At that point, I didn’t have a championship, and it’s one of two races that you get a title when you win this race – this one and the Brickyard. It can make a career and it was a huge, huge thing for myself when I won it in 2006.”