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Team Lowe’s Survives Wild Night at Daytona; Finishes 2nd

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 10, 2009

2009 Daytona Coke Zero 400 Pit Stop

2009 Daytona Coke Zero 400 Pit Stop

Jimmie Johnson survived a wild Sprint Cup event at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night, crossing the finish line 2nd in the third restrictor plate race of the season.

For the second week in a row, Johnson started third after rain forced NASCAR to set the lineup by points.

Despite fighting a tight Lowe’s Chevrolet early in the race, Johnson ran in the top five throughout the event, falling back only once after a pit stop where the No. 48 Chevy had to backup and maneuver around the No. 78 car to leave the pit stall.

“It was a great run for us,” said Johnson, who earned his first top-five result at the 2.5-mile track since his victory there in the spring of 2006. “I feel bad for sliding through the pits maybe two or three stops from the end. My mistake kept us from hopefully being in the lead, second, somewhere in there, on the restart. We had to avoid a couple of accidents since we were so far back in the pack, but we recovered. The car was strong.”

Johnson drove back to the front of the field and the top four cars broke away from the rest. Johnson was in position to contend for his second victory at Daytona as the closing laps neared and was sitting third with a front-row seat when first and second-place running Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart wrecked coming to the checkered flag.

“I had a feeling something would take place coming to the finish and I might be able to improve my position,” explained Johnson. “Everybody was content to stay in line, and you’re just waiting for the second place car to make a move on the leader, and those guys started racing and passing each other and an opportunity came along and I was in the right lane, and off I went.”

Johnson was able to avoid a spinning Busch and followed Stewart to the finish line, earning his 12th top-10 finish of the season. Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.

“It was just a strong performance,” added Johnson. “We have really struggled with the COT at Daytona. My teammates have done well at times. But I’m very proud of the hard work Chad (Knaus) put into some setups. We started practice a couple days ago and were terrible, and he had two or three different packages to try, and finally the last package we put under it really worked well for us and got me a good driving car, so we’re happy.”

Johnson remains third in the Sprint Cup Series driver point standings, 194 behind leader Stewart. Gordon remains second with Kurt Busch and Edwards rounding out the top five.

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