When 7-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson won the 2013 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, he started from the fourth row. When he makes his final scheduled start in the summertime classic at the 2.5-mile venue this Saturday evening (7:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SiriusXM and MRN), he will again start from row number four. Could fans see a repeat performance with a victory, guaranteeing him a spot in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs?
The two-DAYTONA 500 Champion enters this year’s version of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 one spot outside the playoff picture in 17th, just four points below the cutline. The 160-lap event, a staple around the July 4th weekend since 1959, now begins a new tradition, serving as the intense, cut-off race for the 16-team playoffs.
While fans will have to wait until the checkered flag to see if Johnson can capture his second Coke Zero Sugar 400 triumph, or earn enough points to make the playoffs, one part of Saturday night’s race is certain. On lap 48, Daytona International Speedway will pay tribute to the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in two ways – asking the limited amount of fans in attendance to “stand and salute” Johnson while an acknowledgement of his Daytona accomplishments will be seen on the massive video boards inside the Speedway.
In addition, hosts of other items are on tap to honor the 44-year-old California native for his success and support of Daytona International Speedway. Inside the Chevrolet Injector along the frontstretch, an actual No. 48 Chevrolet that competed on the track in 2006-2007, will be on display for fans to see. There will also be a selfie station as part of the Injector, complete with #OneFinalTime foam letters and artwork that highlights Johnson’s iconic moments at the Speedway. Race fans in attendance will also be treated to a tribute video to Johnson during pre-race festivities.
So one may ask, “What is all the commotion about?” It is simple. Johnson, the ultimate professional, has been a major part of Daytona International Speedway’s legacy since 2001 when he finished fifth in the February NASCAR Xfinity race, his first attempt on the storied track. From 2002, when he made his debut at Daytona in the NASCAR Cup Series, the list of achievements are many:
- 2-time DAYTONA 500 winner (2006, 2013)
- 2013 Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner
- Last Driver to sweep both the DAYTONA 500 and Coke Zero Sugar 400 in same year (2013)
- 37 NASCAR Cup Series Starts
- 12 top-5 finishes
- 16 top-10 finishes
- 2 Busch Pole Awards (1st DAYTONA in 2002, 2008)
- 2 Busch Clash victories (2005, 2019)
- 2 Duel at DAYTONA wins (2010, 2015)
- 2-time participant in International Race of Champions (IROC) in 2003, 2004; finished fourth in both events
- 7-time participant in the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA; Finished runner-up in 2005, 2008
Johnson will roll off from the seventh position in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, flanked by his teammate Alex Bowman. Kevin Harvick, the regular season champion, will start first with Martin Truex, Jr. second. The rest of the top six includes Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola and William Byron, Johnson’s teammate that he trails by just four points for the final playoff slot. Ryan Blaney and 2020 DAYTONA 500 Champion Denny Hamlin will go from the ninth and 10th starting positions, respectively.
A limited number of fans will get the opportunity to see Johnson’s final DAYTONA run in the much-anticipated Coke Zero Sugar 400 Saturday. Fans can get tickets, which start at $49 (both races included) for adults and $10 for kids 12 years old and younger, by visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or calling 1-800-PIT-SHOP. The limited number of fans permitted is in accordance with enhanced safety protocols and procedures to provide a safe experience.
The weekend kicks off this Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SiriusXM and MRN) with the Wawa 250 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.
About Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is a state-of-the-art motorsports facility and was awarded the SportsBusiness Journal’s prestigious Sports Business Award for Sports Facility of the Year in 2016. Daytona International Speedway is the home of “The Great American Race” – the DAYTONA 500. Though the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series event garners most of the attention – as well as the largest audience in motorsports – the approximately 500-acre motorsports complex, also known as the “World Center of Racing,” boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe. In addition to at least nine major event weekends, the Speedway grounds are also used extensively for events that include concerts, civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing and police motorcycle training.