Johnson fast in preparation for run at third Daytona 500 title

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was a noon practice on the day of the Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway, and there was six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, doing his thing.

The regular routine for Johnson and No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus is a succession of single-car runs at Daytona, staying out of the draft and out of trouble, looking for speed.

Based on Thursday’s practice, Johnson may be poised to add a third Daytona 500 title to his resume. The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was fastest in the practice session—by a lot. Johnson posted a lap at 193.054 mph.

Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Aric Almirola and Brian Scott tied for second on the speed chart at 189.897 mph.

True, only seven cars participated in the practice. Ty Dillon shook down the No. 95 Chevrolet, who suffered a cracked oil cooler in Wednesday’s session. Ryan Newman tried out his repaired No. 31 Chevy, which was damaged in the wreck that followed Dillon’s incident.

And Kyle Larson and Michael Waltrip were on the track dialing in backup cars, because their respective primaries were KO’d in the same accident that forced Newman to the garage for repairs.

But the bottom line is that Johnson found plenty of speed in his No. 48 Chevrolet during 26 laps of practice, the most run by any competitor.

Johnson’s dedication to the Daytona 500 shouldn’t be surprising, given the esteem in which he holds the great American Race. He won Daytona for the first time in 2006, the same year he won the first of his six championships.

“To win my first 500, it was the first time I had a title,” Johnson said. “Way back then, it was rookie or youngster Jimmie Johnson. Then all of a sudden, I would go out to driver intros, it was Daytona 500-winning driver Jimmie Johnson. This race is the only race that bestows a title on its winner.

“For IndyCar, it’s obviously the Indy 500. But it’s very special. Guys that are on their way to at least the Hall of Fame ballot by winning, it’s not really championship related. This race is massive and can completely make a career whole for someone.”

Image: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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