Jimmie Johnson got to experience something in the Rolex 24 at Daytona that he has been missing in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup -- a driving mistake and mechanical failures that put the four-driver team out of the race.
During Thursday’s practice session, Johnson crashed the Gainsco No. 99 that he co-drove in the around-the-clock endurance race. He pitched in by offering his personal jet to ferry the parts needed to get back on the track.
Then the team experienced problems during the race with first gear and then the oil pump, the latter finally sending them to the paddock for good with about four hours left in the race.
But Johnson, the four-time and defending Cup champion, told reporters that he was happy to be participating in a major sports-car race.
“I am proud to drive for this team and proud to be a part of it,” he said. “The extra work I put on the team on Thursday I feel terrible about, but we really overcame that, and it wasn’t an issue in the race. We had a very competitive car, and then unfortunately we lost first gear and then had the engine problem, but I love racing with the team and I love being down here and being a part of it."
It wasn’t the best of mechanical weekends for many of the Sprint Cup drivers running the sports-car race.
A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh after a late-race mechanical problem, but he was upbeat afterward.
“I felt like this was the best 24 that I’ve ever run,” he said. “I had a triple stint starting around 3 a.m. and then was ready to run a lot of laps with a triple again to get it to the finish. This was no one’s fault. Everyone worked really hard. It’s disappointing, but we’ll be back, no question.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, driving for his Cup car owner Chip Ganassi, was expected to contend for the victory, but his team was the first Daytona Prototype to drop out of the race.
The 24 victory went to a new team, Action Express Racing, with drivers Terry Borcheller, Joao Barbosa, Ryan Dalziel and Mike Rockenfeller.
NASCAR cuts purses
NASCAR officials told several news outlets that the purse money paid to teams in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series will be cut by about 10 percent this year.
“Last year we launched an industry-wide effort to help the sport manage budgets in this economy,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston told ESPN. “NASCAR did the right thing to work with the tracks to reduce their costs in order to manage the economic realities. In return, the tracks have done a great job reducing ticket prices and enhancing the fan experience. Likewise, we worked with the teams to contain costs such as elimination of testing and other steps. This is consistent with how virtually every sport and business has adjusted to the economy over the past year.”
The Charlotte Observer also reported that NASCAR is cutting salaries of some supervisors and scaling back spending.
Kyle Busch won the CRA Super Late Model 250 at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton with a three-wide pass of fellow NASCAR drivers Steven Wallace and Cale Gale with 104 laps remaining. It was his second consecutive victory in the event. ... Joey Logano got his second consecutive victory in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale, Calif., even though most of the post-race buzz was about 16-year-old Sergio Pena, who gave Logano a strong challenge throughout the 225-lap main event. ... Several NASCAR drivers made Business Week’s list of America’s 100 most powerful athletes. Factors in the decision include on-track performance and off-track earning power. Cup champion Johnson ranked 21st; Jeff Gordon, 28th; Mark Martin, 41st; Dale Earnhardt Jr. 45th; Tony Stewart, 48th; Carl Edwards, 67th; and Kyle Busch, 70th. Danica Patrick, an IndyCar star who plans to run a limited Nationwide Series schedule, was 88th.
31 -- Most lead changes in a Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway (2000)
10 -- Most career starts by a driver in a Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway (Terry Cook, Rick Crawford, Dennis Setzer and David Starr)
7 -- Victories in the Camping World 300 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway by Dale Earnhardt are the most of any driver (1982, 86, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94)