By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway resulted in three wrecked race cars for Jimmie Johnson, including one in last Sunday’s Daytona 500 when he was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 60. Johnson left Daytona Beach “really bummed out” and headed for a few days with his girls at Disney World before arriving at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The Hampton, Georgia track has suited Johnson well during his career. Leading all active drivers with five wins and a 105.4 driver rating, it appeared to be just what the seven-time Cup Series champion needed after a disappointing Daytona.
The No. 48 didn’t show much speed on Friday; qualifying 22nd as the Team Hendrick camp all struggled, putting only Alex Bowman in the front half of the field for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. The Chad Knaus led No. 48 team went to work and found some speed in Saturday’s final practice session, finishing sixth on the speed chart as four of the top-10 cars carried the Chevrolet bow tie.
After a lengthy rain delay prior to the green flag, Johnson battled a loose race car in the early laps and finished Stage 1 a lap down in the 19th position. After receiving the free pass and then making a lot of adjustments on a Lap 90 pit stop, Johnson was still outside the top-15 when he spun off Turn 2 with 12 laps remaining in the second stage to bring out the third caution of the race. After repairs to the damage on the right-front of Johnson’s Chevrolet, he returned to the track but wasn’t able to be competitive. The No. 48 Lowe’s For Pros Chevrolet would finish four laps down in the 27th position.
“Thanks for digging in all week. Appreciate all the hard work,” Knaus told the team over the radio.
Johnson is 35th in the championship standings after two races.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the early-season West Coast swing that begins with Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson has four victories in 16 starts at the 1.5-mile track in “Sin City” and will look for a victory which would tie him with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time on the Cup Series wins list with 84.
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