Johnson not having much plate-racing luck

February, 20, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's a picture that didn't make the book Jimmie Johnson and his wife published last year that sums up how the five-time Sprint Cup champion feels about restrictor-plate racing.

The picture is entitled "Farewell Talladega." It didn't make the book because it showed Johnson delivering a one-fingered salute to the Alabama track from the seat of his private jet.

He probably felt like doing it again -- this time aimed at Daytona International Speedway -- after Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited, when he crashed out in the first segment.

"I keep telling myself I like plate racing, but it's getting harder and harder," Johnson wrote on Twitter after the race.

Here's why. Counting last year's Budweiser Shootout and this year's Sprint Unlimited, Johnson has gone six consecutive races on a restrictor-plate track without finishing -- mostly due to wrecks.

His average finish in the past six points races at Daytona International Speedway, the site of Sunday's Daytona 500, is 31.8. He's finished on the lead lap in only one of those.

His average finish in the past three Talladega races is 26.0, and that includes a 17th last fall when he crashed coming to the checkered flag.

So if you're looking for a driver to bet on Sunday, Johnson may not be the best choice.

"It's such a balance, too, because one win and you are in Victory Lane and it's the coolest rush because you are gambling the whole race," said Johnson, who won the 2006 Daytona 500. "When it hits, it's a lot like hitting it in the casino. The rush is amazing.

"But it's a different kind of racing. Especially for the No. 48 team, we have had a lot of torn up race cars lately. It's starting to get a little old, but we will keep racing. We will keep building cars and be out there trying to get all the points we can."

A year ago, after waiting an extra 24 hours for the 500 to start due to a rain delay, Johnson crashed hard into the wall after a nudge from Elliott Sadler. On the first lap.

"Last year's was about as bad as it gets," Johnson said. "Leaving the first lap crashing, that wasn't a good one. We will hopefully make 2.7 miles this year before anything happens."

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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