JJ cuts finger prior to final Rolex 24 stint

Three-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson required stitches to close a gash to the middle finger on his left hand, suffered just prior to his final driving stint in the Rolex 24 at Daytona Sunday.

According to Johnson's publicist, Kristine Curley, the driver was attempting to cut a hole in the pocket of his fire suit with a kitchen knife, in the effort to weave a cooling tube through the suit.

The knife slipped, and Johnson suffered a gash to his finger.

"It got me pretty good," Johnson told The Associated Press. "Cut right through the fabric to where my finger was on the other side."

Johnson promptly removed himself from competition, surrendering his final run in the car to teammate Jimmy Vasser.

Johnson was taken to the Daytona International Speedway infield care center, where he received stitches, though Curley was uncertain how many. For precautionary reasons, Johnson then flew quickly back to Charlotte, N.C., for further evaluation at an area hospital. He said the injury will not affect his driving and he'll be ready to race when teams report to Daytona in 11 days to begin preparations for the season-opening Daytona 500.

Curley echoed those thoughts.

"It's nothing major," Curley said. "He's fine. It won't affect him at all."

Johnson teamed up with Vasser, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing entry, a team that finished second in 2008. But early in the running Saturday evening, Johnson pitted to change a tail light when his No. 99 Pontiac stalled out. The gear box had broken, dropping Johnson and his team nine laps behind the leaders.

Marty Smith covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.