Sunday, July 07, 2013

Johnson Answers Challenge With Daytona Win

A week ago, Matt Kenseth fired a challenge across Jimmie Johnson’s bow, winning his series-high fourth race of the season at Kentucky Speedway. 

Saturday night, Johnson responded in kind, winning his fourth of the year with an awe-inspiring performance in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. In an era that makes it difficult – if not impossible – to dominate on NASCAR’s restrictor plate tracks, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion did just that Saturday, pacing the field for 94 of 161 total laps.
While others climbed and fell through the field like so many 900-horsepower yo-yos, Johnson’s Lowe’s Home Improvement Chevrolet clung doggedly to the lead, fighting off challenges from Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip on a final green/white/checkered restart to claim his 64th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.
“That’s tough to do at a plate track,” admitted Johnson afterward, displaying no small degree of understatement.

After opening the season with a victory in the Daytona 500, Johnson became the first driver to win both Daytona races in the same season since Hall of Famer Bobby Allison turned the trick, way back in 1982. Only three others drivers; Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough had ever accomplished the Daytona Double since the track began hosting NASCAR races in 1959.
Informed of his achievement in Victory Lane, Johnson admitted having no idea he had snapped the 31-year streak.

“I didn't have the slightest clue,” he said. “(But) to do anything Bobby has done is pretty special. I’m very proud of that. That's pretty awesome.

"I don't think I made a bad move tonight,” said Johnson. “I'm pretty proud of that. We had a very, very fast race car. I think I showed strength early and a lot of guys were willing to work with me and help me through situations.”
"Jimmie was really, really good,” admitted runner-up Stewart afterward, invoking some understatement of his own. “We were just a little bit off of him”
Indeed, the Hendrick Motorsports driver paced the final 32 laps Saturday, keeping a frenzied series of late-race crashes and banzai moves solidly in his rear-view mirror, while leaving the competition to speak of what might have been. 

Third-place man Harvick said he might have had something for Johnson Saturday, if he had been able to fight his way to the lead. 

“We could have done the same thing in clean air,” said Harvick. “The front car is in a lot better control." 

That’s just the point, though. Maybe someone could have done what Johnson did Saturday night. But no one did. 

As a result, Johnson now leads the championship standings by a whopping 49 points; more than a full race with only eight starts remaining before the 2013 Chase begins. While most of that lead will be erased at the end of NASCAR’s regular season, Johnson has spoken openly of his desire to hold – and even extend – his advantage all the way to Richmond.
“I want to send a clear message that we’re the dominant team,” said Johnson recently. “I want everyone in NASCAR to look at us as the ones to beat for the championship.” 

While Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and others remain solidly in the hunt, Johnson’s message echoed loudly Saturday night; as loudly as the post-race fireworks that lit up the Daytona Beach sky. 

The road to the championship runs through Jimmie Johnson. 

Make no mistake about it.


  1. Just about to the point of giving up on watching NASCAR. Already decided I'll not waste any money to see another one live. Races getting boring, same winners week in week sick of Jimmie Johnson, and I am a Hendrick fan.

  2. Johnson has now LOST 14 times in 18 starts this season, meaning that he has gone to Victory Lane 22% of the time. Does your favorite MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL team lose 78% of its games? And if not, are you boycotting the sport to protest their success? I didn't think so.

    For reference:

    Richard Petty won 27 times in 48 NASCAR starts in 1967, including a record 10 in a row.

    From 1957 to 1969, the Boston Celtics won 11 NBA championships in 13 years, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966.

    The Los Angeles Lakers have won 17 NBA championships since 1949, including a stretch of five titles in six years.

    Between 1915 and 1993, the NHL's Montreal Canadiens won 24 Stanley Cups, including five in a row from 1955-1959. They won 25% of the championships contested from 1915 to 2010.

    Is greatness really something to be spat upon? Or is it what we should all aspire to?

  3. Amen on your comment, Mr. Moody. People want to cry for their own selfish reasons. Yeah, I can't afford to go to Talladega, but I still go to my home track in Texas. Time to let the crybabies out so we can return to the real fans. Racing's been great this year. Go #20!