Jimmie Johnson Disappointed in Toyota Debut at Daytona 500

Jackson Wheeler
7 Min Read

  • Monday’s Daytona 500 marked the first time that Jimmie Johnson drove a Toyota in NASCAR Cup Series competition.
  • An early crash damaged his car, and the Legacy Motor Club owner/driver spent the rest of the race playing catch-up.
  • Johnson is planning a partial schedule as a driver this year, with his next in-car outing planned for Dover on April 28.

For 21 years, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson drove a Chevrolet, winning three races at Daytona International Speedway, including two Daytona 500s. This year, the co-owner of Legacy Motor Club stepped into a Toyota for the first time in his career due to his team’s transition to that OEM.

And, unfortunately, nothing went as planned for the 48-year-old Johnson.

First, Johnson almost missed the Daytona 500 due to his involvement in a four-car accident with 10 laps remaining in his qualifying race. Damage to his Toyota Camry was minimal and he managed to pull off a 12th-place finish to earn the 23rd starting position in the Daytona 500 field.

Then, the 200-lap Daytona 500 was only five laps old when Johnson was caught up in a seven-car accident on the 2.5-mile track’s frontstretch. Johnson continued in the race, but finished 28th, four laps down to race winner William Byron.

“There’s optimism in the beginning, hopeful, we could straighten out the suspension and then at least run in the draft,” said Johnson, the only driver to compete in the Daytona 500 after being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“Then, as time went on, we realized the severity of the damage and we just had too much damage to even really hang in the draft unless I had a unique situation. So then, at that point it was just wondering if there were going to be more cautions and if we would gain some positions through the cautions.”

Johnson’s next race is April 28 at Dover.

nascar cup series daytona 500 practice

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Corey Lajoie may have been the biggest surprise of the race, finishing in the top five for just the fourth time in his career.

Corey LaJoie Kicks Off Season With Top-5

In recent years, Corey LaJoie’s strong performance in superspeedway races has many believing the Spire Motorsports driver will acquire his first NASCAR Cup victory on one of the tracks. LaJoie’s showing in the Daytona 500 keeps that possibility alive.

LaJoie led one lap, sidestepped a 23-car crash that eliminated several contenders, including pole position winner Joey Logano, and produced a fourth-place finish, his best-ever at Daytona International Speedway. It was just his fourth career top-five finish in 237 Cup starts.

“I got a lot of great experience leading the lanes, controlling,” LaJoie said. “Kyle Bush pulled about a 140 racing IQ move on me out of (turn) two and held me to the top. He was kind of baiting me to the top and filled the middle. So, I learned something there. Every time we come, I get a little better, a little more comfortable.

“The only time I made a mistake was leaving that middle open. We got shuffled and we did all we could, but we recovered well.”

nascar cup series daytona 500

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Bubba Wallace avoided late trouble to finish fifth in the Daytona 500.

‘Frustrated’ Wallace Pulls Off Top-5 Finish

Bubba Wallace has two runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500, and this time he led three times for three laps, but at the 200-lap race’s conclusion this year he found himself having to settle for fifth behind winner William Byron.

“We don’t give ourselves chances in the (Daytona) 500,” Wallace says. “We’re always trying to come from behind, whether that’s my doing or just not executing. “Feel like you need to be in the top three rows to have a shot at this race. I’m so frustrated.

“This was the cleanest 500 car I’ve ever had. That’s nice! The team, 95% execution, but you got to have 100.”

Blaney ‘Tweaks’ His Wrist

Ryan Blaney says he “tweaked” his wrist in the 23-car crash that eliminated him from the Daytona 500 with eight laps remaining in the 200-lap season opener.

“The wheel got ripped,” Blaney says. “I usually get my hands off the wheel, but I didn’t think I needed to and then it caught something and spun it weird, but it just tweaked it a little bit. It bent it pretty weird. It’s all good.”

nascar xfinity series united rentals 300 practice

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John Hunter Nemechek rolled a pair of 7s over the weekend in two starts at Daytona.

Two Races, Two Top 10s

In an eight-hour period Monday, John Hunter Nemechek and A.J. Allmendinger competed in back-to-back NASCAR races and produced top-10 finishes in both of them.

In the rain-delayed Daytona 500, Allmendinger came from one-lap down in the 200-lap event to finish sixth to winner William Byron.

Allmendinger lost a lap when he received a pass-through penalty on lap 13. The NASCAR penalty report lists the penalty as “unspecified.” He regained his lost lap at the end of Stage 1when he received the free pass.

At the end of the Daytona 500, Allmendinger immediately stepped from his Kaulig Racing Cup car and headed for his Kaulig Racing Xfinity Series Chevrolet, which he will drive fulltime this year. In the 120-lap Xfinity race, Allmendinger finished 10th to Austin Hill, who claimed his third consecutive victory in the season opener.

Nemechek is the opposite from Allmendinger, competing full-time in the Cup Series this season for Legacy Motor Club, and driving part-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series. Nemechek finished seventh in both races.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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