Johnson Scores Top-Three Finish at Daytona
- Feb 18, 2003
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2003) – Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, led all Hendrick Motorsports drivers with a third-place finish in Sunday’s rain-shortened Daytona 500.
“Of course, I would have loved to race until the end,” said Johnson, who earned his third consecutive top-15 finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. “I felt we had a shot to win the race.”
Four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon finished 12th after starting from the 13th position in the No. 24 DuPont Chevy.
“We had a fast race car, and the longer we ran the better we were, the better the handling, the further to the front we could get,” Gordon said. “I tried to make a move to get up to my teammate Jimmie Johnson so we could push one another, but guys didn’t want to go with me.”
After starting 15th in the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Monte Carlo, Joe Nemechek was making a run toward the front as inclement weather cut the race from 200 laps to 109.
Early in the event, Team 25 experienced communication trouble that hampered their on-track efforts when Nemechek’s radio malfunctioned, making it impossible for him to receive instructions from his spotter or crew chief Peter Sospenzo. The team scrambled to fix the problem, but lost track position in the process.
The Lakeland, Fla., native finished 22nd overall.
After starting 41st in the 43-car field, Terry Labonte made an early charge toward the front of the pack, advancing to 23rd in the first 75 miles. But soon afterward, the No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevy suddenly lost power and began drifting toward the rear of the field as the driver switched to a backup ignition system.
Labonte was able to continue and had begun working his way through traffic when the ignition glitch struck again. This time, the No. 5 Chevrolet quickly regained its spark, but the problem had once again cost the two-time Winston Cup champion valuable track position.
When the second rainstorm of the afternoon ended competition just past the halfway mark, Labonte was locked into 30th, where he would finish his 25th Daytona 500.
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., for the Subway 400. Scheduled for a 1 p.m. EST start, the event will be carried live on FOX and MRN radio beginning at 12:30 p.m.