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Jimmie Johnson lined up last for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Unlimited event after fans voted to set the field according to the final practice speeds. Undaunted, Johnson climbed 12 positions by Lap 3 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to claim the sixth spot. He improved four more positions during the first segment to move into the second spot by Lap 29.
The driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS was running second and coming to final lap of the first segment when he was involved in an incident on Lap 30. After making hard contact with the wall and spinning through the grass, Johnson told crew chief Chad Knaus his No. 48 Chevy SS would not be able to continue the race.
"I was trying to set up a pass on the (No.) 11 and work from there,” said Johnson, who was uninjured after the incident. “In the end, I wound up getting turned around.”
Johnson was scored with a 17th place finish after the incident.
Quotes from the Sprint Unlimited and looking ahead:
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THIS RACE FOR YOU? WHY IS IT THAT THIS IS NOT ONE THAT YOU SEEM TO FINISH?
“I don’t know. I’m glad I get it out of the way here and then have success in the (Daytona) 500 and the Duel, but it was a fun race. I learned a lot during the course of it. We didn’t draft yesterday trying to save a race car and we lost one here racing. I should say I learned a lot in the car, how to create passes, how to slow people down and make some neat stuff happen out there.”
WHAT IS DIFFERENT WITH THE MODIFICATIONS THEY MADE TO THE CAR THIS YEAR? WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST YEAR?
“With the spoiler being taller the car is much more sensitive to cars next to you and near the back of your car. As they get close to you, even when they are dead behind you and trying to pull out you can feel it change the airflow and really slow the car down. The taller spoiler is acting more like a parachute and the car is much more sensitive to side drafting.”
HOW WAS IT TO RUN SATURDAY NIGHT CONSIDERING THURSDAY THE DUEL IS AT NIGHT?
“I didn’t even know it was at night, so that is great. I’m glad I was out there for a little bit. I had no idea. It’s just great getting reps. I have been sitting on the couch for a few months and not racing or plate racing for that matter. Then all the Daytona testing we have had, the practice down here, we have been doing single car stuff. It was nice to get out there and knock the rust off a little bit, but unfortunately we are behind the wall.”
DAYTONA 500 QUALIFYING: Qualified 14th. Johnson will have the opportunity to improve his starting spot for the Daytona 500 in Thursday's Budweiser Duels. Drivers with odd-numbered starting spots participate in the first duel, and the even-numbered qualifiers compete in the second one. Johnson will line up seventh for the second race of the day at Daytona.
Other Notables: Austin Dillion (the No. 3 Chevy) is on the pole for the 56th running of the Daytona 500. Other Hendrick Motorsports cars: Kasey Kahne – 19th, Jeff Gordon – 8th, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 7th.
Next up: Budweiser Duels: Thursday, February 20th 7:10pm ET on Fox Sports 1