Daytona II: Jimmie Johnson preview

Team Lowe's hoping SpongeBob the cure for Daytona Johnson hoping to better third-place finish from earlier this season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2002) - Daytona International Speedway is known as a technology dependent racetrack, one where ...

Team Lowe's hoping SpongeBob the cure for Daytona
Johnson hoping to better third-place finish from earlier this season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2002) - Daytona International Speedway is known as a technology dependent racetrack, one where teams will look for every possible advantage to secure a win. While Team Lowe's is considered a leader in cutting edge racing technology, it will look for an extra boost from its newest crewmember when the green flag drops on this weekend's Pepsi 400. That new crewmember - SpongeBob SquarePants.

Jimmie Johnson comments on running the SpongeBob SquarePants paint scheme "Since it seems to rain every time we race in Daytona, Team Lowe's Racing decided it would make perfect sense to have a sponge on our race car. This way, SpongeBob can help dry the track so we can finish the race. Hopefully this time we'll be in the lead."

In restrictor plate racing, can you define how much is car and how much is driver?

"You've got to have a good horse, but there are a few variables out there that are pretty big. One is (that) you need help to make things happen out there. If you can make a friend or you have a teammate, that's pretty important. You also need a good race car. A good car does a lot but good driving is a big aspect of it, too. I have to say that I started the Daytona 500 in my rookie year with a car capable of winning of winning the race, and I finished 15th (and was) a lap down. As time has gone on, I kept getting better and better and I've had a good horse through all of that. But you've got to have a good car and somebody to work with you. At the same time, you've got to have a good sense of the draft because it's a weird environment out there. You spend more time looking in the mirror than you do looking in front of you. That's something that no one in racing is used to doing. It just takes a lot of experience to get used to it."

How frustrating it is to go up against the DEI cars when they've won the last five restrictor plate races?

"I think they definitely have a bull's-eye on them. We've all felt at different stages of the race - especially in the closing laps of the race - that we have them under control. But they keep finding a way to get to the front. So, they're the teams to beat - especially the No. 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and the No. 15 (Michael Waltrip) down there (Daytona). With the runs that we've had at Talladega and Daytona, I think if anybody has a shot at doing it, we do."

All four of the HMS drivers where together in Talladega with under 20 laps to go and the No. 8 race car was still able to get by for the win. Do the HMS drivers have a game plan for Daytona?

"We always try to work together. But that was sheer luck and fortune to have us all end up nose-to-tail out there. We try to look for those opportunities and try to create them as the race goes on, but it is so hard to end up behind a teammate and to really work well. The lead car of any group gets the biggest benefit while the guys behind you usually get hurt because they're all pushing that lead car. So for all to stay together for a long period of time and make it really work is tough to do. Somehow, the No. 8 (Earnhardt Jr.) and the No. 15 (Waltrip) have been able to do it. We've all been trying to mimic it. It's been pretty obvious to the fans and drivers that they've been able to make it work. None of the other teams have been able to work that well or help each other that much and we don't know why. We're trying to figure it out. We're going to try to do it again and see what happens. But at the same time, all of our experiences have been that the guys at the back of the line can't break away from the field like those two (drivers) have done. So, we'll just have to see what happens."

Is it harder than it looks for Dale Jr. and Waltrip to work together for a whole race?

"Yeah, I think so. At Talladega, the No. 15 (Waltrip) worked with me a lot because he and Jr. were in different lanes. And then Jr. had his troubles and kept working on the car and finding his way back through the field and then Michael (Waltrip) crashed. So, Jr. raced Talladega without Michael - in my eyes. So it's been amazing they've been able to work together. But at the same time, both of them have been able to win without the other one being there. I think Michael won this race (Pepsi 400) last year without Jr. there. So they can do it together or without each other, which is pretty amazing."

Do you understand the yellow line rule now, or is there some confusion after what happened in Talladega when drivers realized it was open to interpretation?

"I know that I've been nailed for being forced out of bounds to avoid a wreck. I didn't have a choice and I went down there (below the line) and was penalized. All it takes it being penalized once and you realize that you don't need to be there and put NASCAR in the position of making a decision on what's going to happen for me. So if I'm down there and I'm forced out of bounds - I say this now and you don't know what'll happen in the heat of the moment when maybe you're coming to the checkered flag - but if I'm forced out of bounds, I'm going to hold my position, roll out of the gas and fall back in line as soon as I can. I was nailed in Daytona for it during the 125's last year and it just takes getting busted once to learn your leasson. You've got so much to lose. If the ruling is against you, it's just not worth it."

Jimmie Johnson Fast Facts

Johnson ranks seventh in the Winston Cup Series championship standings, 431 points behind leader Matt Kenseth and just 59 out of the top five.

Johnson has one win (Lowe's Motor Speedway), two top-five (Daytona - 3rd and Lowe's Motor Speedway - 1st) and six top-10 finishes (Daytona - 3rd, Rockingham - 8th, Bristol - 8th, Texas - 8th, Martinsville - 9th and Lowe's Motor Speedway - 1st).

Johnson has led in six out of the 15 races this season (Daytona, Las Vegas, Talladega, Lowe's Motor Speedway, Dover and Pocono)

Johnson has been in the top 10 in NASCAR Winston Cup points for 49 consecutive weeks, the longest current streak in Winston Cup.

Johnson won his first pole position of 2003 at Pocono Raceway.
Johnson has four career Winston Cup victories, tying him for
63rd on the all-time NASCAR win list.
Johnson won The Winston all-star event at Lowe's Motor Speedway, taking home the largest purse in its 19-year history, $1 million.

Jimmie Johnson at Daytona International Speedway

In Winston Cup, Johnson's average qualifying position is 9th and his average finishing position is 9th.

His Winston Cup record at Daytona International Speedway is:

Daytona 500 - 2003: started 10th and finished 3rd
Daytona 500 - 2002: started 1st and finished 15th
Pepsi 400 - 2002: started 16th and finished 8th
NAPA Auto Parts 300 - Spring 2001: started 34th and finished 5th

In the Busch Grand National Series, Johnson only raced once at Daytona International Speedway:

No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Fast Facts
Team Lowe's Racing will bring Chevy 4870
This is the same Lowe's Monte Carlo that Johnson drove to third-place finish in the 2003 Daytona 500 and lead the most laps at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this season.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson