Jimmie Johnson runs half-marathon before Daytona 500 qualifying

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, climbs into his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson ran three times on Sunday, but only two of the occasions involved his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

Before Daytona 500 time trials, which started at 12:30 p.m., Johnson ran the Daytona Beach Half-Marathon, which starts on the tri-oval at Daytona International Speedway and ends 13.1 miles later after a run to the sands of Daytona Beach.

“Yeah, I ran the Daytona Half Marathon this morning which is always a great event,” said Johnson, whose takes his fitness training seriously. “And it’s certainly one to weigh on my mind as I’m eating all the Christmas candy and holiday things that we do, knowing that there’s a half-marathon out there for me and keeps me a little more honest and in shape. So, it was a fun day today.”

In the qualifying session that followed, Johnson posted the fourth-fastest lap behind pole winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott.

Next Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be Johnson’s last as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver. Understandably, the seven-time champion feels a tug between nostalgia and the job at hand.

“It’s a balancing act,” Johnson acknowledged. “I want to soak it in, but I’m just wired to race. I want to win races, and I want to be a championship threat. So I’ll try to figure that out as the year goes on. Things are pretty casual this first week here in Daytona.

“As we get to the 500 and the races that follow, I’m sure I’ll gravitate more toward the work side and the performance side of life. But I’m just thankful to be here. It’s been a heck of a run, and I’m very excited to start my final full-time season.”