Skip to main content

Jimmie Johnson and his much-anticipated return to NASCAR is just weeks away when he will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500, a race he won twice in his Hall of Fame career. He also sat on the pole a couple of times. 

This week, a couple of members of the Door Bumper Clear podcasts talked about the 47-year-old’s upcoming return on NASCAR’s biggest stage. They discussed the stacked field of open entries Johnson will have to battle against to qualify but said the new Legacy MC co-owner wouldn’t have to worry about it because chances are he’ll end up sitting on the pole as a couple of other drivers coincidentally did on special occasions in the past.     

Jimmie Johnson had success at Daytona in his career 

Jimmie Johnson had an impressive record on a lot of tracks. That’s what happens when you win 83 Cup Series races. Daytona was no different. 

Unlike many drivers who win championships but find winning the Great American Race elusive like Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, Johnson found his way to Victory Lane a couple of times at the superspeedway. The first came in 2006 and was a breakthrough moment as he finally earned the Harley J. Earl Trophy after finishing in the top five in the three previous races.  

He captured it again in 2013 and followed it up with a couple of top-5 finishes the next two seasons.

In addition to his wins, Johnson won the pole in 2002 and 2008. 

Johnson likely to win pole, according to industry insiders

Out of NASCAR competing in the IndyCar Series the last two years, Johnson will likely be rusty in his return to Daytona. Plus, it will be the first time he’s driven the Next Gen car on the 2.5-mile track.

Despite those obstacles, Freddie Kraft and Brett Griffin of the Door Bumper Clear podcast said this week that the rust and new car won’t even matter. Johnson qualifying for the race is a foregone conclusion.

“The open cars are very very competitive this year,” Griffin said. “You’ve got Austin Hill coming, basically an RCR car. You obviously got Jimmie Johnson coming. I don’t know if he’s any good at drafting or not, though.” 

“I don’t think it’s going to matter for him to draft,” Kraft interrupted and smiled. “I think he’ll be in on Wednesday night.”

“I saw the chance he’s on the front row,” Griffin replied. “If that happens, I don’t even know what we wager.”

“We’ve seen this before somewhere I believe,” Bubba Wallace’s spotter suggested. 

“Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon,” the part-time Kaulig Racing spotter whispered. “We could keep going.” 

Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon, and others won on special occasions

The spotters are talking about the year Johnson won his last 500 in 2013. That same year was Patrick’s first full-time season of Cup racing and she landed on the pole. She was the first woman to win a pole in the Daytona 500 and in any Cup race.

The following year, the pole winner was Austin Dillon. Why was that special? It was the first appearance of the No. 3 car in the NASCAR Cup Series since Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death in 2001. 

When Griffin suggested on the podcast that he “could keep going,” many conspiracy theorists think NASCAR completed the trifecta in 2015, the year after Dillon, when Jeff Gordon won it in his final Daytona 500 appearance.

Johnson’s return would unquestionably be considered one of those “special moments.” Will it happen? Everyone will be paying attention and, if it does, there are two spotters who will be able to claim they said it first.

Related

NASCAR Two-Time Champ Doesn’t Mince Words and Believes Jimmie Johnson Shouldn’t Be Eligible for Hall of Fame in 2024