DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 7, 2008) – Jimmie Johnson, the two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and the 2006 Daytona 500 winner, is beginning the 2008 season where he finished 2007 – on top.
Johnson, driving the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, posted the fastest lap on the first day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a lap of 184.782 mph in the morning session.
Rounding out the top three were Casey Mears at 184.475 mph and Kyle Busch in his new ride at Joe Gibbs Racing at 184.064.
The test session is the first shake down that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams have had with the new winged car (Car of Tomorrow) at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17. For Johnson, the test has been productive so far.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to get off the couch,” Johnson said. “If I sit around and eat any more food, drink any more beer, I won’t be able to get back into my suit and my race car. We’ve enjoyed the off-season, celebrated the championship. I’m excited to get back at the track.”
Johnson and the entire NASCAR community are preparing for one of the biggest races in the sport’s history – the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
As a former champion of “The Great American Race,” Johnson is hungry to capture his second Daytona 500 win in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 as well as the gold Harley J. Earl trophy that comes with the victory.
“I feel fortunate to have won the Daytona 500 and hopefully can hoist the trophy up again this year,” Johnson said. “I mean, it will be a big year for whoever wins it. This race is always big for the winner but to win it on the 50th (running) will be a huge mark.”
Jeff Gordon echoed Johnson’s comments during Monday’s lunch break session with the media.
“You always want to win the Daytona 500,” said Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner. “It’s the ultimate. But it’s certainly cool when I come in here and I see the (gold) trophy. It makes for a lot of incentive. I’m fortunate to have a few of these, but none of them have gold on it.”
Surprise guest: A surprise visitor during the first day of testing on Monday was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who stopped by DIS to see how his new Hendrick Motorsports teammates – Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears – were doing.
“He’s down here today for the test, which is huge,” said Johnson. “It’s painful watching other cars go around the track, especially here at this type of test session. For him to come down, show the team how committed he is to being up front, winning races and championships, says a lot to the team, his teammates, to the team members and I think to the racing public, that he’s down here, ready to go, ready to get after it.”
Said Gordon: “Most drivers, if they’re not here testing, they don’t want to be here so I was surprised. I think it says a lot and it’s smart on his part. I’m really proud of him for doing that because he’s going to be here without his teammates next week.”
Earnhardt Jr., who left Dale Earnhardt Inc. to join Hendrick Motorsports beginning with the 50th running of the Daytona 500, will shake down his new ride – the No. 88 Chevrolet – during next week’s second wave of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing.
First time at DIS for Villeneuve: Formula One veteran and former Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve is making his first appearance at Daytona International Speedway during this week’s test session.
“It’s fun, first time,” said Villeneuve, who is driving the No. 27 Toyota for Bill Davis Racing. “I guess it’s the one track that’s known in Europe. It is one of the special tracks. First time here, it’s nice. I live in Montreal now. We’ve been in snow storms for a while so it’s nice to be on the beach a bit.”
For Villeneuve, qualifying for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 is going to be difficult. He doesn’t have a guaranteed starting spot and will have to crack the field through Daytona 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger or the Gatorade Duel at Daytona.
“The car is fast,” said Villeneuve, who was the third fastest driver in Monday morning’s session. “It’s going to make it tough. It’s a challenge and we’re just going to have to rise to it.”
First on track: The first car on track for the first wave of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series session was Casey Mears in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Quotable: Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “This place holds a special place in my heart, getting my first-ever win which was then the Winston Cup Series. To get my first win here was pretty neat. I remember starting in the Craftsman Truck Series, my first year was the 50th anniversary of NASCAR, so to have an opportunity to win the 50th running of the Daytona 500 is a thrill.”
Quick hits: NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran Jason Keller is testing a No. 98 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge during this week’s test … Kirk Shelmerdine is behind the wheel of the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet … Red Bull Toyota driver A.J. Allmendinger, the fourth fastest driver in the morning session, on his best holiday gift he has received, “So far, it looks like a competitive car at Daytona.”
NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest: The NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest for the first wave of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will be on Tuesday.
The NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest events start at 5 p.m. but fans will be able to enter the Sprint FANZONE beginning at 9 a.m. to watch all of the exciting testing action. Admission is $15.
Fans will be able to get a sneak peek on NASCAR teams as they prepare for DIRECTV Speedweeks 2008 with inquisitive fan forums with many of their favorite drivers as well as enjoying all the state-of-the-art amenities in the popular Sprint FANZONE.
Also included in NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests will be music, displays, pit stop demonstrations, a silent auction and passenger hot laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval in pace cars (additional $25).
All testing sessions throughout January continue to be free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of Daytona 500 Experience.
Tickets: Race tickets for all DIRECTV Speedweeks 2008 events at Daytona International Speedway are available online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Monday morning testing speeds from the first wave of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing in preparation for the 50th running of the Daytona 500:
1. 48A, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 48.706, 184.782
2. 5B, Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 48.761, 184.574
3. 5A, Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 49.027, 183.572
4. 27B, Jacques Villeneuve, Toyota, 49.092, 183.329
5. 84B, A.J. Allmendinger, Toyota, 49.101, 183.296
6. 84A, A.J. Allmendinger, Toyota, 49.167, 183.050
7. 24A, Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 49.169, 183.042
8. 18, Kyle Busch, Toyota, 49.199, 182.931
9. 18B, Kyle Busch, Toyota, 49.200, 182.927
10. 96A, J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 49.260, 182.704
11. 00A, David Reutimann, Toyota, 49.319, 182.485
12. 96B, J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 49.340, 182.408
13. 42A, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge, 49.400, 182.186
14. 28A, Travis Kvapil, Ford, 49.404, 182.171
15. 27A, Jacques Villeneuve, Toyota, 49.418, 182.120
16. 78A, Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 49.432, 182.068
17. 16B, Greg Biffle, Ford 49.453, 181.991
18. 00B, David Reutimann, Toyota, 49.481, 181.888
19. 16A, Greg Biffle, Ford, 49.502, 181.811
20. 2B, Kurt Busch, Dodge, 49.519, 181.748
21. 17A, Matt Kenseth, Ford, 49.541, 181.668
22. 19A, Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 49.553, 181.624
23. 99A, Carl Edwards, Ford 49.555, 181.616
24. 42B, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge 49.558, 181.605
25. 41A, Reed Sorenson, Dodge 49.575, 181.543
26. 45A, Kyle Petty, Dodge 49.593, 181.477
27. 07A, Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 49.596, 181.466
28. 98A, Jason Keller, Dodge, 49.607, 181.426
29. 99B, Carl Edwards, Ford, 49.632, 181.335
30. 41B, Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 49.636, 181.320
31. 17B, Matt Kenseth, Ford, 49.660, 181.232
32. 1A, Aric Almirola, Chevrolet, 49.734, 180.963
33. 7A, Robby Gordon, Ford, 49.748, 180.912
34. 33, Kirk Shelmerdine, Chevrolet, 49.821, 180.647
35. 7B, Robby Gordon, Ford 49.880, 180.433
36. 2A, Kurt Busch, Dodge 49.884, 180.419
37. 8A, Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 49.906, 180.339
38. 1B, Aric Almirola, Chevrolet, 49.993, 180.025
39. 07B, Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 49.997, 180.011
40. 70A, Jeremy Mayfield, Chevrolet, 50.064, 179.770
41. 8B, Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 50.171, 179.386
42. 70B, Jeremy Mayfield, Chevrolet, 50.405, 178.554
Monday afternoon testing speeds from the first wave of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing in preparation for the 50th running of the Daytona 500:
1. 48A, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 48.735, 184.672
2. 5B, Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 48.852, 184.230
3. 5A, Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 48.891, 184.083
4. 18, Kyle Busch, Toyota, 48.896, 184.064
5. 84B, A.J. Allmendinger, Toyota, 48.918, 183.981
6. 27B, Jacques Villeneuve, Toyota, 48.973, 183.775
7. 24A, Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 49.010, 183.636
8. 28B, Travis Kvapil, Ford, 49.025, 183.580
9. 00A, David Reutimann, Toyota, 49.043, 183.512
10. 18B, Kyle Busch, Toyota, 49.052, 183.479
11. 1A, Aric Almirola, Chevrolet 49.082, 183.367
12. 84A, A.J. Allmendinger, Toyota, 49.122, 183.217
13. 96A, J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 49.233, 182.804
14. 42B, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge, 49.250, 182.741
15. 00B, David Reutimann, Toyota, 49.256, 182.719
16. 70A, Jeremy Mayfield, Chevrolet, 49.287, 182.604
17. 19A, Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 49.292, 182.585
18. 8A, Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 49.353, 182.360
19. 78A, Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 49.369, 182.301
20. 27A, Jacques Villeneuve, Toyota, 49.369, 182.301
21. 98A, Jason Keller, Dodge, 49.375, 182.278
22. 17B, Matt Kenseth, Ford, 49.377, 182.271
23. 96B, J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 49.383, 182.249
24. 28A, Travis Kvapil, Ford, 49.386, 182.238
25. 07A, Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet 49.402, 182.179
26. 99A, Carl Edwards, Ford, 49.403, 182.175
27. 2B, Kurt Busch, Dodge, 49.408, 182.157
28. 16B, Greg Biffle, Ford, 49.461, 181.962
29. 42A, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge, 49.511, 181.778
30. 45A, Kyle Petty, Dodge, 49.526, 181.723
31. 41B, Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 49.537, 181.682
32. 33, Kirk Shelmerdine, Chevrolet, 49.551, 181.631
33. 17A, Matt Kenseth, Ford, 49.564, 181.583
34. 16A, Greg Biffle, Ford, 49.567, 181.572
35. 99B, Carl Edwards, Ford, 49.567, 181.572
36. 78B, Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 49.626, 181.357
37. 41A, Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 49.656, 181.247
38. 7B, Robby Gordon, Ford, 49.658, 181.240
39. 07B, Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 49.692, 181.116
40. 7A, Robby Gordon, Ford, 49.770, 180.832
41. 2A, Kurt Busch, Dodge, 49.773, 180.821
42. 48B, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 49.797, 180.734
43. 8B, Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 49.878, 180.440
44. 1B, Aric Almirola, Chevrolet, 49.885, 180.415
45. 70B, Jeremy Mayfield, Chevrolet, 49.916, 180.303