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Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports - Q&A

Jimmie Johnson might be a five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, but he'd only won the Daytona 500 once - until now.
Jimmie Johnson may have been an unstoppable force of nature when it came to NASCAR Sprint Cup championships in recent years, but restrictor plate racing at venues such as Daytona International Speedway have been a different matter for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

He's won the Daytona 500 once, in 2006 - the year he clinched his first Cup championship - but ever since then he's failed to even make the top 25. That all changed in 2013: does it herald the start of a new purple patch in the five-time champ's career?

Q:
Jimmie, were you surprised at the end as you started taking that inside line up through there, I kept waiting for somebody, Biffle, Danica, people running second, third or fourth, to drop down in front and let you push them along, were you surprised nobody jumped down in front of you and made you push?

Jimmie Johnson:
Yeah, everybody was just playing the odds. The majority of the competitors wanted to run the top. The draft really works in numbers. There's more there than the bottom. With the side drafting being as effective right now, you could really choke down the bottom lane and pin a guy against the line and slow him down and then get away and have that long line of cars to surge you past.

The game's changed a little bit. It used to be defend the bottom, now it's defend the top.

In the closing laps, we were all single file, I was leading, I wanted to see what would go on with the middle or bottom and not allow guys to set me up based on my lines. I ran the bottom and no one had a run or did anything. It was an interesting race.

Learned a lot through the course of the race with the new Gen‑6 car. At the end when it was time to go, I knew we had a straight racecar with no scratches on it. We worked real hard, we had a game plan down here every time. Even though we were in single‑car drafts, we had an agenda and things we worked on and made the car a little bit better each day, kept perfecting it. I had one heck of a racecar today.

Q:
Jimmie, I want to ask you about a side‑bar story that comes out of this race. Danica Patrick made history today being the first woman to ever lead a lap in the Daytona 500. What impressed you most about the way she ran this race and what do you think this does for the sport?

Jimmie Johnson:
Well, she's really comfortable in the car. Being close to other competitors, door‑to‑door, whatever environment takes place on the racetrack, at these speeds, she was very comfortable. Held a great wheel. Was smooth and predictable. Took advantage of runs when she had them. She did a really good job.

It was just another car on the track. I didn't think about it being Danica in the car. It was just another car on the track that was fast. That's a credit to her and the job she's doing.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, hoists the Harley J. Earl trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, racing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Hendrick Motorsports` Jimmie Johnson (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, talks with the media following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS qualified for second position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Johnson, who is in the Chase, is 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, celebrates with Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 18, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, talks to his crew chief, Chad Knaus, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 17, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ben Kennedy in the #31 Turner Scott Motorsport NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 10, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, looks on from the grid prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 9, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Crew members for Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, work on the car after a crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 3, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Johnson advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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