Jimmie Johnson will be going for his third Daytona 500 victory on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FOX) and he knows the task will not be an easy one.
Johnson endured a rough start to Daytona Speedweeks, losing control of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet twice during Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash. The first time, Johnson got into Kurt Busch and hit him; the second time, Johnson spun himself out of the race.
The Turn 4 spins were eerily similar to those suffered by Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in last year’s Daytona 500.
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Wednesday morning during Daytona 500 Media Day, Johnson said his rough Sunday was a product of he and the team both being very aggressive.
“The restrictor-plate rules package is the same this year as it was last,” said Johnson, who this year will go for a record eighth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title. “We can’t sit still. We need faster cars. Everybody’s working on it.
“We were very aggressive in the (Clash) and tried to create speed for the car,” said Johnson. “I’m a guy who likes a loose race car, so I was willing to roll the dice.”
The fact that the Clash was rained out Saturday night and run Sunday during the day changed things, too.
“We also thought we’d be racing at night, which would help the grip level,” said Johnson. “Raced during the day and it just didn’t turn out for us.”
Despite the setback on Sunday, Johnson remains optimistic about the 500, based on how his car performed in last year’s Daytona 500.
“We have great notes to fall back on,” said Johnson. “We had a very good driving car for last year’s 500 and two teammates who didn’t spin out in the Clash. So we have plenty of notes to go to. But we’re definitely being aggressive.”