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Jimmie Johnson Squeaks Into Daytona 500; Yeley Headed Home

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In dramatic fashion, Jimmie Johnson narrowly races his way into the 66th Great American Race!

What’s Happening?

Following Wednesday night’s qualifying session to set the front row of the Daytona 500, 7-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer, Jimmie Johnson found himself in unfamiliar territory: unable to qualify in on speed, he would have to race his way into the Great American Race during the first of two duel races to set rows 2-20.

While Jimmie had an impressive showing in the first half of the race by quickly making his way solidly into the top-5, a late-race incident almost spoiled his chances. In the back of the pack following a round of green flag pit stops, Johnson was caught up in an incident involving Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric.

You Need To Know:

  • After Toyotas had a slow showing in Wednesday night’s qualifying session, the pressure was on for Jimmie Johnson to race his way into the 66th running of the great American race. Jimmie was not shy about feeling nervous heading into tonight’s race and, early on, he was a man on a mission, rocketing up toward the front of the pack in a hurry.
  • In Duel #1, Anthony Alfredo was the only driver locked in based on speed. After suffering from a speeding penalty on pit road, Alfredo was forced to fall back on his qualifying time, meaning that there was just one spot up for grabs between Johnson and J. J. Yeley. Though he gave it his all, some last-lap contact would kill the momentum of Yeley’s No. 44 Chevy for NY Racing as he would come up just short of qualifying for the Daytona 500.
  • Fans are overwhelmingly pleased to have 7-Time back behind the wheel of the No. 84 this year and were rooting for him to race his way into the big show. Luckily, he did and the fans rejoiced!

In the end, fan favorite and arguable NASCAR G.O.A.T., Jimmie Johnson, raced his way into the 66th running of the Daytona 500. He will start 23rd in Sunday’s race.

The Main Characters

Heading into the 2024 season, Jimmie Johnson was facing a lot of unknowns having changed manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota.

As posted on X by Jimmie’s sponsor, Carvana, Jimmie was sitting pretty in the 3rd position after Duel #1.

It all came crashing down, however, when Jimmie Johnson was caught up in this little incident in the closing laps. Luckily, there was minimal damage to his Petty Blue No. 84.

After the dramatic finish of the race, NASCAR on FOX’s Jamie Little caught up with the 7-time champ as he breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief.

Around the Garage

Legacy Motor Club didn’t waste much time taking to Twitter to celebrate after their driver and co-owner raced his way in. LMC will have three entries on Sunday and will likely work with 23XI Racing and JGR. There’s strength in numbers for sure!

In the Stands

While Ryan here never loved (or maybe even appreciated) Jimmie back during his dominant streak, he likes seeing him as a part-timer. He’s glad the 7-time champ made the show.

Hans says that JJ “pulled that one out of his tailpipe”. He calls his late race passes “luck”. Perhaps. But hey, he was looking pretty sporty before the green flag pitstops.

Diana is dizzy from all the chaotic back and forth! In the end, she’s elated that Jimmie Johnson qualified for the 66th running of the Daytona 500!

Micah’s out of breath after that INSANE rollercoaster ride! He is likewise thrilled JJ made the big show.

On Your Screen

Our friend from Out of the Groove, Eric Estepp captured this picture and shared it on X. Jimmie seems to be pretty popular in Daytona Beach!

DannyBTalks retweeted one of Eric’s tweets revealing that the original plan for NY Racing was indeed to have Greg Biffle in the No. 44. Yes, Danny, it does appear to be a big mess!

Darian Gilliam (of Black Flags Matter) appreciates the respect Jimmie Johnson had for J. J. Yeley after the two fought hard in the closing laps of Duel #1.


How about that race, Daily Downforce readers!? It sure was a barn-burner wasn’t it!? What did you think about it? Did you think Jimmie would make the show and, if so, did you imagine the drama in the closing laps? Let us know! And be sure to follow us on all our social media platforms for the latest news and updates about this and every race weekend. NASCAR is officially back, baby!

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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