Jan
28

Jimmie's 168 Hours of Daytona

Racing

On January 23, 1966, American racing icon Dan Gurney won his fourth straight NASCAR race at the twisty, dusty Riverside International Raceway in California. Two weeks later he finished second in the first ever 24 Hour sports car endurance race at Daytona. What would be unheard of in today’s world of racing was commonplace in the race anything, any day, world of yesteryear.

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While the era of musical racecars, hopping from NASCAR to sports cars to Formula 1 to Indy week by week, is long gone, every once in a while a driver will climb into an unfamiliar racecar and see what he can do.

For an eight year stretch, the now Seven-Time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson made seven mid-winter pilgrimages to Florida where he honed his craft behind the wheel of a top-of-the-line Daytona Prototype sportscar in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

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The Daytona 24 has always been a melting pot of the racing world, as drivers suffering from Cabin Fever are antsy to mash any pedal they can. As a result, the ‘24’ has a reputation for being fiercely contested by some of the world’s best hot-shoes. In his seven trips, Johnson competed against the likes of Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Scott Pruett, Dan Wheldon, Hurley Haywood, Paul Tracy, Sebastian Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Max Papis, as well as fellow stock car compatriots like Tony Stewart,  AJ Allmendinger,Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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He even raced door to door with two icons of the silver screen: Patrick Dempsey and the late Paul Newman.

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As with any form of auto racing, endurance racing is a team effort...but what makes it different is it’s the only racing in the world where you’ll see a driver willingly give their seat to another. In the video below from Johnson’s most recent ‘24’ in 2011, you’ll see him hop out of the No. 99 Chevrolet in the middle of the night and hand it over to co-driver Jon Fogarty:


Johnson traded stints with eight other drivers from 2004 to 2011: Jimmy Vasser, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marc Goosens, Butch Leitzinger, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, David Brule, Jim Matthews, and Alex Gurney.

In his seven starts in the Daytona 24, Johnson was a part of two podiums, five top ten’s, and spent 27 laps leading the world’s best.

Year

Team

Car

Finish

Laps Led

2004

Howard Boss Motorsports #4

Chevrolet/Crawford DP

8

0

2005

Howard Boss Motorsports #4

Pontiac/Crawford DP

2

13

2007

Riley-Matthews Motorsports #91

Pontiac/Riley DP

19

0

2008

Bob Stallings ‘Red Dragon’ #99

Pontiac/Riley DP

2

14

2009

Bob Stallings ‘Red Dragon’ #99

Pontiac/Riley DP

7

0

2010

Bob Stallings ‘Red Dragon’ #99

Chevrolet/Riley DP

8

0

2011

Bob Stallings ‘Red Dragon’ #99

Chevrolet/Riley DP

12

0

The highlight of Johnson’s Januarys in Daytona was 2008’s second place finish in the No. 99 Lowe’s/Gainsco ‘Red Dragon’ Pontiac for Bob Stallings, where he, Jimmy Vasser, Jon Fogarty, and Alex Gurney were presented with their runner-up award by one of America’s all-time greatest racing giants, winner of the first sports car race at Daytona in 1962, and Alex’s father, Dan Gurney.

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For every highlight, there is usually a moment of humility. Thankfully, Jimmie’s led to nothing more than a harmless laugh and a funny story to tell the grandkids…


Join Jimmie this weekend in cheering on friend and former teammate Jeff Gordon as he drives the brand new Cadillac DPI in search of his first Rolex win.

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Check out the TV lineup for an awesome full day of racing action. You might even get to see a finish as exciting as last year’s Corvette Racing duel…



In case you missed it, last year we showed you just how much slideways fun Jimmie got to have in one of those yellow Corvettes one time – check it out here!