Seven-time’s last time in the Daytona 500? Not necessarily

DAYTONA, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally (48) signs autographs during practice for the 62nd annual Daytona 500 on February 14, 2020 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will be competing in his final full-time NASCAR season in 2020, but the two-time Daytona 500 winner would not go so far as to declare Sunday’s Daytona 500 his absolute last.

The popular champion said he’s not ready to give up racing altogether, and unlike some of his retired contemporaries, has no immediate plans to move into the television booth.

“It could be down the road,” Johnson said. “I feel like I still have things I want to do and accomplish behind the wheel. And when that fades, I would say maybe there’s a chance (to do TV). I haven’t pursued that or put much time or effort into it. I still have stuff I want to accomplish behind the wheel.”

Johnson has mentioned numerous times that he will be open to all racing once he steps aside from this fulltime NASCAR duties—from off-road racing to IMSA sportscars to occasional NASCAR Cup Starts at certain venues. He did rule out the Indianapolis 500 but was open to an IndyCar road course event, perhaps.

“It could be my last 500 (on Sunday), I don’t know,” Johnson said. “I am officially retiring from 38 weekends a year at the end of the season. I do know that, but the right situation, I would certainly consider it. I know that I can’t shut off my competitive nature at the end of the year and call it good.”

Johnson finished runner-up in his Duel 150 qualifying race on Thursday and will start Sunday’s Daytona 500 sixth in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

Daytona International Speedway has made special plans to honor Johnson prior to Sunday’s green flag. There has been a kiosk in the infield throughout the weekend showing highlights of Johnson’s two Daytona 500 wins in 2006 and 2013.

There will be a video tribute to Johnson prior to the race highlighting his championship career accomplishments and showing various tributes from other drivers. A long introduction will take place during the “driver intros” portion of pre-race and Johnson will lead the field on one of the warm-up laps prior to the race start.

SHORT STROKES

On Saturday morning, Daytona International  Speedway announced the debut of SoccerFest on July 4 weekend in 2021. By process of elimination, that means the summer NASCAR Cup race won’t return to its traditional July 4 weekend position on the schedule. The Coke Zero 400 takes on additional prominence on this year’s schedule as the cutoff race for the Playoffs. …

In cool. Overcast conditions, 26 of the 40 drivers set to compete in Sunday’s Daytona 500 participated in Saturday’s final practice session for the Great American Race. Ford drivers dominated the session, securing the top eight positions on the speed chart. Joey Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, posted the fastest lap at 200.516 mph, with 2007 winner Kevin Harvick close behind at 200.512 mph.