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article imageNASCAR: Jimmie Johnson wins ‘the most difficult race to win’

By John Duarte     Feb 25, 2013 in Sports
Daytona Beach - While the eyes of the NASCAR world were focused on Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson went about driving a smart race and won the 55th running of the Daytona 500, on Feb. 24.
The five-time Sprint Cup champion started his 2013 season a great note on Sunday, at the Daytona International Speedway, winning the Great American Race for the second time. Johnson knew that when he had crossed the finish line at the head of the pack he had accomplished something special.
“When you put us here at the biggest race, the Daytona 500, everybody brings their A game. It’s the most difficult race to win,” he said. “It’s about as tough as it gets out there.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second in the Daytona 500, for the third time in the last four years, and Mark Martin was third in a race which had had competed in 28 previous time.
People and the media seemingly spent much of raceday talking about Patrick’s achievements, but Johnson also added some impressive notes to his racing resume and the NASCAR history books. Sunday’s race was the 400th of Johnson’s NASCAR career and the win marks the 12th consecutive year that he has won at least one race. With his latest win, Johnson also became the 10th driver to win the Daytona 500 multiple times. Johnson previously won the race in 2006 and went on to win his first of five consecutive Sprint Cup championships.
Despite winning arguably the biggest race of the NASCAR season, Johnson pointed out that the Daytona 500 is just one race and too soon to start thinking about a championship that is nine months away.
“It’s awesome. There’s no other way to describe it. Definitely a good start for the team,” he said. “But, it is a little early yet. So (we are) very hopeful and excited that our car will be really fast in Phoenix, Vegas, moving forward. I think it’s going to be a very strong year for us.”
Making headlines all week after becoming the first woman to win the pole position for the Daytona 500, Patrick didn’t disappoint the headline writers as she went about her business on Sunday. During the race, she became the first woman to lead a lap of green-flag racing in the 500. She ended the race in eighth, which gave her the highest finishing position ever be a female racer. Leading a lap at Daytona also gave Patrick the honour of being the only woman to lead a lap in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.
But, like a true racer, Patrick was more interested in what didn’t happen in the Daytona 500.
“I would imagine that pretty much anyone would kick themselves and say what could I have, should I have done to give myself the opportunity to win,” she said commenting on her driving during the closing laps of the race, when she was as high as third place heading into the final lap. “I didn’t know what to do exactly. I feel it was just my inexperience.”
Veteran racers like Earnhardt Jr. and Martin both think Patrick belongs in Sprint Car. Martin said “there will be more races to come and it will be good for the sport.” Earnhardt added, “She’s got a great level head. She’s a racer. It’s going to be fun to watch her progress.”
Patrick’s performance also impressed this year’s Daytona 500 winner.
“She’s really comfortable in the car. She did a really good job.” Johnson said, adding that he didn’t think about Patrick during the race and that “it was just another car on the track.”
He was quick to say he felt that Daytona is the type of track that suits Patrick at this time in her career. “When we get to the other tracks, she has a tall learning curve ahead of her.”
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule is the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway, on March 3.
More about Nascar, Sprint cup series, Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr
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