DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Perhaps the third time really is the charm for Jimmie Johnson.
After wrecking his primary Daytona 500 car in the second 150-mile qualifying Budweiser Duel at Daytona on Thursday, Johnson was down two No. 48 Chevrolets.
He had trashed the intended Daytona 500 backup car five days earlier in the Sprint Unlimited.
The six-time champion expected his third Speedweeks car might be a rewrapped version of a Hendrick Motorsports teammate’s Chevy. Instead, a brand new No. 48 was ready for Friday’s practice, fully painted and detailed.
What’s more, Johnson said the current version may be faster than the primary and backup he destroyed.
“We’ve been very impressed and happy with the speed this third car has had,” Johnson said prior to the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. “Not a situation we wanted to be in, by any means, but I wasn’t aware of the preparation and our car count coming down here. Obviously we want to bring our best two race cars and we felt that was the case.
“But we brought two cars that we had a lot of success with last year and a build on those cars that were last year’s mindset and technology. Some of our teammates built new vehicles and brought them down here and they have had a little speed on us even through qualifying.”
Johnson was surprised his team also had a new car at his disposal.
“I wasn’t aware that we had a (new) generation car like this, and that’s what our third backup is,” Johnson said. “With our single-car runs (Saturday in practice) the car had a few tenths more speed in it than our best car, the car that we had slated for the Daytona 500.
“So, with all that, it’s nice to have the speed, and we’ll take it from there.”