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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 SS stops in the pits on his way to his win Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Team XTREME Racing #44 entry - driven in the Daytona 500 by Reed Sorenson (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, interim driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS finishes in sixteenth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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