DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Following his second victory in the “Great American Race,” driver Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and owner Rick Hendrick inducted the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet into the Daytona Int’l Speedway Ticket and Tours Building during Monday’s annual Champion’s Breakfast.
“The night was great,” Johnson said of the celebration. “We had a lot of fun in the infield. I think the security guys knew we were here and said, ‘Nice job celebrating, now you guys just need to slow down a little bit.’ ”
Johnson’s late night celebration might have gone well, but his immediate celebration after taking the checkered flag wasn’t as successful. His burn out in the tri-oval grass actually damaged the front end of the No. 48 car that is now on display in the indoor Gatorade Victory Lane at the “World Center of Racing.”
“The damage was pretty bad. I’m not going to lie,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I just wanted to get a cool picture on the Daytona logo. I think every driver’s goal is to get on the logo and do a burnout. I turned down and pulled it into second gear and thought I had the right angle to spin it off into the grass. As I turned in, the right front tire dug in. I knew instantly, when it grabbed the dirt, that I had a big problem. It just didn’t go as planned.”
Joining the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was long-time crew chief, Chad Knaus, who was unable to serve as crew chief on the team when they won the Daytona 500 in 2006. Knaus was sent home by NASCAR after the No. 48 car failed post-qualifying inspection.
“This is a dream race; everyone wants to come to Daytona,” said Knaus. “I remember sitting on the sofa in the early 1970’s, watching the Daytona 500 and wanting to be a part of it for years. When we won this race in 2006 that was probably one of my best moments as a crew chief. Unfortunately I wasn’t here, so that’s the bad thing.
“To finally be able to be down here in Victory Lane with the 48 car and Jimmie and the rest of my guys, it’s a fantastic thing and I’m honored to be the crew chief on this race team.”
“(Chad) didn’t get to call the race and he didn’t get to experience the fun that followed,” said Johnson of the 2006 win. “That’s why I’m so happy for him – to have that moment standing there in Victory Lane.”
There are many obligations that come with winning NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race. After the Champion’s Breakfast, where Johnson and Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III unveiled the logo for the 56th annual Daytona 500, Johnson left immediately to begin a whirlwind media tour.
“(Winning the Daytona 500) was thrilling – there’s nothing like that moment,” Johnson said. “What follows winning this race is what happens when you win the championship; NASCAR owns you for a few days. I’m not sure exactly of everything we have in store. I think we go to Charlotte today for some more media and then to Connecticut to ESPN; tomorrow is New York media. I’m not sure what happens after that, but I’m sure it’s going to be busy and I’m just going to savor the moment. There’s no telling when this will happen again, so I want to enjoy it.”