HOMESTEAD, Fla. – In the final day to get time on the track before Sunday’s season finale, Jimmie Johnson showed that his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS will have plenty of speed.
He led the field in the first practice session on Saturday with the fastest lap time. In the final practice, he ran over a piece of debris, but he assured fans after the session that there was no damage.
“No, no damage from the hose, just a little scratch,” he said.
Ultimately, he finished the final practice session 10th.
“With the car we really hit on some things in the final practice,” Johnson said. “Driving much better, great speed -- short-run speed, long-run speed -- we made some good improvements there at the end of that.”
That came a day after Johnson found himself in the top five throughout much of the first practice session of the weekend, leading him to relay that he thinks “we have a great car.”
He wasn’t quite as fortunate during Friday night’s qualifying session, as he nearly did not advance past the first round of the session.
A slower-than-expected first lap left Johnson to make another pass – but a caution flag flew during his attempt. That negated the lap, and meant he would have less than a minute to get one final lap on the board in order to advance.
He did just that, and eventually earned a 14th-place starting position.
“Unfortunately, that first outing we just didn’t get a good lap. Then, I was on a great lap and the caution came out so we ended up with an additional lap on our tires,” he explained. “A bit unlucky and we kind of hurt ourselves that opening run and I think to end up 14th on the age of those tires is respectable.
“Qualifying isn’t my strong suit -- I’m much better at racing, so let’s line them up and go racing.”
While Johnson will roll off the grid back in 14th, none of the Championship 4 contenders qualified higher than ninth place.
“We will all be wadded up together,” Johnson said. “Let’s party.”
Between running over debris Saturday and advancing at the last moment during qualifying Friday, the excitement has been high – and the green flag hasn’t even dropped yet.
“What is a championship race,” Johnson smiled, “without a little drama?”