|Johnson is 10/1 to win Saturday (Getty)|
It’s been a labor of love for the sport but one that has been embraced by drivers, sponsors, manufacturers and fans alike. A few highlights of the new design include a chassis that is 150 pounds lighter, a nose that is two inches longer, a carbon fiber hood, three extra bars added to the roll cage, and drivers’ names displayed across the top of the windshield in addition to the traditional signature above the door.
Race teams and manufacturers have spent countless hours working with NASCAR to fine tune the Gen 6 car. “Speeds are up, down force is there. You’re going to be using the throttle a lot,” said Johnson. Excitement is evident as the season gears up for the sport’s biggest race and one thing fans and the whole sport can be proud of is the fact that “we built something together” that is sure to provide plenty to talk about this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Daytona 500 Notes of Interest:
- · The Daytona 500 will mark Johnson’s 400th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start, his 23rd career points-paying Sprint Cup start at Daytona and his 118th career points-paying start in a restrictor-plate race.
- · In his first full Sprint Cup season in 2002, Johnson earned the pole in his very first race, the Daytona 500.
- · Johnson has one win, six top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 22 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.
- · His average start is 9.6 and average finish is 19.0.
- · Johnson has completed 3,536 of 3,865 laps (91.5%) and led 60 laps in 22 starts.
- · In 10 career Sprint Unlimited starts, Johnson has seven top-10 finishes.
- · His only win in the specialty, non-points-paying event came in February 2005.
- · Johnson has finished in the top-15 in every Sprint Unlimited race he has run.
- · Johnson’s average finish in the Sprint Unlimited is 7.4.
- · Johnson has one win in the Duels in February 2010.
- · His first Duel race in the series could have prevented him from qualifying for his first Sprint Cup race, the 2002 Daytona 500. He had ignition problems and failed to finish. However, he earned the pole position during qualifying to secure his spot in the field.
- · For the 2013 season, Johnson’s 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the five-time champion once again climbs behind the wheel of the No. 48 Lowe’s and Kobalt Tools Chevrolets.
- · Once again in 2013, up-to-date information on Team Lowe’s Racing can be found on Twitter (www.twitter.com/lowesracing), Facebook (www.facebook.com/
teamlowesracing ) or by registering for regular updates at www.LowesRacing.com.
- · Triathlon: Immediately following the NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet last fall, Johnson competed in his first Olympic triathlon in Palm Springs, Calif. Johnson finished first in his age group and eighth overall.
- · Foundation News: The Jimmie Johnson Foundation announced in December that nearly $600,000 in education grants were awarded in partnership with Lowe’s Toolbox for Education.® The Champions Grants were awarded to K-12 public schools in Johnson’s hometown as well as his wife, Chandra’s. In its fourth year, the program has awarded more than $2.6 million in grants.
- · The foundation, in partnership with Lowe’s and Samsung Hope for Children, awarded a $48,000 technology grant Monday to New Hanover Township School in Wrightstown, N.J. It included $11,500 in Samsung technology and a $36,500 grant from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation to purchase items including projectors, laptops, desktop computers, microscopes and audio visual equipment.
Did the Car of Tomorrow or your team have the most to do with your past success, and how does it compare to the new Gen-6?
“When cars are difficult to drive, I tend to excel. Chad (Knaus) loves the challenge and can usually dial it in and make it comfortable for me. I also look at racetracks. You know, the quirky racetracks are where I kind of make my bread and butter – the Dovers, Martinsvilles, places like that. So I think it’s really a kind of a blend of things and really kind of a perfect storm. The COT (Car of Tomorrow) was for us and we rattled off a lot of wins and got in championship form and won some championships as a result, too. This car (Gen-6) is much more forgiving. I’m excited to get into the year and find out where the challenges are. You’re going to have to be highly committed to get a pass done. Speeds are up, downforce is there. You’re going to be using the throttle a lot. I enjoy that. I look forward to it, but the times when you’re sliding the car and the rougher the track is, that’s been better for us. So this could require me to learn how to drive the car a little bit differently and may pose a couple challenges for me getting going, but we’ll just have to get going in the season and see what’s out there.”
Are you at a disadvantage not being in the COT with the success you’ve had?
“It’s hard to say, just yet. I still feel like we’re going to be plenty good. We’ve been competitive on all types of tracks. And if you go back to the last year of the Monte Carlo when we had lots of downforce like we do right now, we won the championship that year, too. I feel like I have it in my skill set. I know the team does. Some of those skills are probably a little rusty from the way things have been with the COT but I know I’ll find it. I’ll work endless hours to sort it out and make sure I’m doing all I can in the car. Right now, you have every big team saying we’re going to win races. We’re going to win the championship. There are a lot of high hopes out there. My team has them. All of Hendrick has them, as well. We just need to get racing and see where they fall.”
You did not have drafting practice at the Daytona test session. Will that hurt you? Did you learn any lessons?
“We’re in Daytona for two weeks with lots and lots of practice. And as much as we want to think that a 10-, 15-car draft is important in a test session, it’s really not what we see in the race. Sure there were a couple of lessons learned and we realized that the bumpers don’t match up all that well. I’m glad I wasn’t out there to be a part of that in the test. But the Sprint Unlimited is going to be the first real indication of how things are going to work. We don’t have a lot of parts and pieces, so we need to be smart and make sure we have racecars to get into the Duels and then the 500.”
You’ve been training a lot. How important is that to a driver’s success in the car?
“From a physical standpoint, some tracks have a much higher strength need than others – Bristol, Martinsville and a road course would probably be at the top. Talladega and Daytona would be on the bottom side. You add in the 39 races we have with the All-Star and Duel and all that stuff as the year wears on and, when the heat picks up, that physical toll is there and you’ve got to be in shape to do it. And I know Tony (Stewart) doesn’t look like he’s in shape but he has racing fitness. You know, there are plenty of baseball, football players who aren’t ready for the cover of Men’s Health, but they have playing strength. So, it’s hard to judge a book by its cover, at times. Of late, I’ve gotten more involved with endurance sports than I’ve ever expected or had an interest in but, once I got some momentum going and gotten involved with it, I’ve really enjoyed it and have had fun with it. I feel I’m doing far more than I need to to drive the car, but I can’t stop now. I’ve got too much invested.”
Are there any parallels between training and racing?
“The training and even competing, there are a lot of parallels that exist with racing. And then the knowledge I’m learning from training and competing in triathlons and things like that, that I can carry over to the racecar – hydration, nutrition, rest, stretching. There are a lot of other aspects that are connecting those two worlds for me and I’m enjoying it.”
Jimmie Johnson NASCAR Sprint Cup Career Statistics:
- · Johnson has 60 wins in his Sprint Cup career, his most recent coming on Nov. 4, 2012, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
- · El Cajon, Calif., native Johnson is eighth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, trailing Dale Earnhardt, who is seventh with 76 wins.
- · He is second in total wins among active drivers behind Jeff Gordon (87).
- · Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories sooner – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
- · Of the 23 tracks on which the series competes, Johnson has won Sprint Cup races at all but five – Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
- · Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.
- · Johnson earned his fourth Brickyard 400 victory July 29, 2012, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, tying him with Jeff Gordon as the winningest driver in the famed race. Johnson and Gordon also are tied for second on the all-time Indianapolis Motor Speedway win list with four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. (Seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher is the track’s all-time leader with five United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis victories.)
- · Johnson has collected 29 poles in his Sprint Cup career
- · The championship driver earned at least one pole a year in the first 10 years of his full-time career.
- · He had a career-high six poles in 2008.
- · Johnson’s most recent pole position was on Nov. 2, 2012, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
- · Johnson finished in the top-10 in the Sprint Cup Series point standings each year since his first full season in 2002 and in the top-five in 10 of those 11 years.
- · Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year since the format was adopted in 2004.
- · In 399 Sprint Cup starts, Johnson has posted 166 top-five finishes and 248 top-10s.
- · He has a top-five finish at every track on the Sprint Cup circuit.
- · Johnson has led a total of 13,856 laps (of 114,712 possible) in his Sprint Cup career, covering more than 152,933.2 miles.
- · He has finished on the lead lap 309 times.
- · Johnson was named by Forbes magazine as its Most Influential Athlete in 2012 and 2011.
- · In 2009, Johnson became the first racecar driver to be named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in its 78-year history.
- · Voted Driver of the Year four times in his career (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), joining Gordon as the only other four-time winner of the prestigious award.
- · Johnson has won an ESPY for Best Driver four times – 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
- · For his work throughout the year in social media, Johnson ranked as the top driver in NASCAR for strongest and most engaging use of social media in a study by Tuckahoe Strategies.
- · Won four #Sports Awards for use of social media in sports, including Best Overall Brand on Social Media, Most Engaging Athlete on Twitter, Most Engaging Athlete on Facebook and Best Instagram Photo (for his 2012 photo of Bristol Motor Speedway).
- · With his wife, Chandra, launched the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006. The foundation is dedicated to helping children, families and communities in need. To date, more than $5.6 million has been contributed to various organizations.