Sunday, February 17, 2019

Stickin With: Jimmie Johnson as He Attempts to Win His 3rd Daytona 500

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway on February 10, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By: Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 17, 2019) -- After scoring his first win at California Speedway in 2002, his rookie season, 2018 was Jimmie Johnson’s first winless season in 16 years. In the off season, it was announced that the dynamic duo of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus would be splitting up, ending the longest driver/crew chief pairing in NASCAR Cup Series history.

Johnson would be paired up with Kevin Mendeering, who had been Elliott Sadler’s crew chief at Jr Motorsports previously, while Knaus would move over to the number 24 car and crew chief for young William Byron.

Those new pairings would begin producing success right off the bat in 2019.

Knaus struck first with Byron, as the new pairing claimed the pole position for the 61st Annual Daytona 500.

Johnson made his way back into victory lane just a few hours later, albeit through controversy. Johnson attempted a side draft on leader Paul Menard, but in that attempt, the two made contact, triggering a 16 car crash. Johnson remained out front and was proclaimed the winner after rain ended the event early.

Johnson again found himself in hot water a few days later after contact with Kyle Busch in the Duel at Daytona sent Busch spinning down the backstretch.

While there has been a bit of a black cloud hovering over Johnson this week, he is in the mix and proving to be very competitive. It’s like he is having a surge of momentum and is eager, perhaps over eager in some respects, to capitalize on the new opportunity.

“When I look at last year and the struggles we had, sure there’s some obvious things to try to rectify and try to get redemption on,” Johnson said, “but I don’t want to over-emphasize that because it’s not what motivates me. Sure I want to get back to Victory Lane, sure I want to win another championship and all those other obvious things that are out there, but that’s not what keeps up at night and gets me excited.”

The monkey he has been carrying since his last points paying victory is ready to jump off after the exhibition win in the Clash, and the Daytona 500 is a great place to get that win.

Johnson has won the “Great American Race” twice, in 2006 and 2013. In 34 starts at Daytona International Speedway, Johnson as completed 80% of the laps he has run (not counting the Clash, a race that he is historically terrible in) and led 299 of those laps. He as three wins, having won the 2013 July race in addition to his two Daytona 500s, and has an average finish of 18th.

While Johnson is not my out right pick to win this Daytona 500, I feel as though he will be a strong contender; this could be the week the monkey jumps. So, for all those reasons, I’m #StickinWith Jimmie Johnson.

SEE ALSO: PixeatedPICK: 61st Annual Daytona 500

Stickin With is a feature of PixelatedSPEED that follows and showcases a driver that hasn’t won in a while. I “stick with” the featured driver until that driver cracks into victory lane. This means I may stick with a given driver for one week… or the entire season. Either way, you’ll get insight and perspective along the way.

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