DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2009)—Jimmie Johnson avoided a last-lap incident to finish second and lead his Hendrick Motorsports teammates on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Johnson lined up third for the 160-lap event and followed winner Tony Stewart across the finish line as the duo dodged a spinning Kyle Busch.
“We had a great race car,” said Johnson, who remains third in the driver standings and trails teammate Jeff Gordon by 14 points. “We haven’t been this strong in Daytona in a long time, and I am really proud of the hard work my team has put in this chassis. The guys did a great job of setting this car up, and I am very impressed with this.”
Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, started from the outside pole position and led one lap before getting involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 76. Gordon’s team worked to repair the damage to his No. 24 Chevrolet and he finished 28th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard “Serving America”/AMP Energy Chevrolet, was involved in that same incident. Earnhardt’s No. 88 team did not have enough time left in the race to fix the Chevy’s wounds, which included a torn A-frame and severe damage to the exhaust system.
“I guess there were a couple of guys going for the same piece of real estate there, and I tried to stay high because I thought they would spin down off the wall,” said Earnhardt, who finished 39th. “The No. 00 got crossed up trying to miss them and we hit him. So the National Guard Chevrolet was just getting going. We had just freed the car up enough and were moving toward the front. The car was driving good. I thought we had a shot at getting up there and mixing it up with the leaders.”
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet, started 11th and finished 38th. Martin was involved in a multi-car crash early in the day, but his team worked to fix his No. 5 Chevrolet, and he returned to the track to pick up valuable points. Martin now ranks 13th in the driver standings,