Early wreck a lesson for Jimmie Johnson
February 15, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson opted against practicing in the draft for The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. He didn't get much more time Saturday night, but said he learned plenty in the pack after an early exit in Saturday night's season-opening exhibition.
Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet crashed at the end of the first of three segments, sliding out of the groove at the exit of Turn 4 and careening into the inside retaining wall after just 28 of 75 laps. But the six-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion banked plenty of insight that should help him for the rest of Speedweeks.
"I'm glad I get it out of the way here and then have success in the 500 and the Duel," Johnson said after he was evaluated and released from the infield care center. "But it was a fun race. I learned a lot during the course of it. We didn't draft yesterday, trying to save the race car and we lost one here racing, but I should say I learned a lot in the car, how to create passes, how to slow people down and make stuff happen out there."
Johnson started last in the 18-car field after a fan vote decided the lineup would be determined by Friday's final practice speeds, but he had little trouble finding his way near the front of the class in the early going. His only miscue was having his Hendrick Motorsports entry swap ends in a close-quarters contest with Denny Hamlin in front of him and Kevin Harvick behind him.
"The transition of the race track and the tight proximity of, I think the 4 (Harvick) was behind me and catching the 11 (Hamlin), the car just got light and went into a drift," Johnson said. "For a second there, I thought I could keep it off the inside wall, but the longer I slid, the more the wall became a reality and I got it."
With no points on the line in The Sprint Unlimited, Johnson was done for the day, but despite the limited experience Saturday night, he still had some take-away with regards to the new Sprint Cup aerodynamic package -- specifically, the taller spoiler height and how it affected traffic.
"With the spoiler being taller, the car is much more sensitive to cars next to you and the back of your car," Johnson said. "Even when they're dead-behind you and trying to pull out, you can feel it change the air flow and really slow the car down. The taller spoiler is acting more like a parachute and the car is much more sensitive to side-drafting."