January 11, 2011
Jimmie Johnson aims to make historyNew deal saves Honda Edmonton Indy
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
The trophy case at Jimmie Johnson’s Charlotte, N.C., home is filled to overflowing with five Sprint Cup championship trophies, one Daytona 500 winning trophy and 53 others from his phenomenal NASCAR career.
But there is one he’d like to add to the collection: A Rolex 24 championship.
Four times Johnson has tried and twice he played second fiddle — in 2005 and again in 2008 — at the Grand-Am sports car series endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway.
On the final weekend of this month Johnson will step out of his stock car racing comfort zone again to make another stab at joining Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only men in history to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24.
He’ll be driving the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Daytona Prototype with co-drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
Johnson insists he’s anxious to erase his past failure’s on Daytona’s 3.56 mile road course and in an interview said that equalling the feats of the iconic Andretti and Foyt would be something very special.
“I certainly hope to make (it) three guys that won the 500 that have gone on to win the Rolex 24,” he said. “We have been awfully close. This year, the team has worked awfully hard again to get us in position.”
Johnson said that it takes a different mindset to race in a twice-around-the-clock event like the Rolex 24 mostly because it is a partnersihip deal, where all three drivers must be prepared to do their part.
“The team made a big effort to get me more seat time in general,” he said. “With three drivers, you can’t have anyone needing seat time come race weekend needing to find pace.
“I feel that the team has gone out of its way to get me comfortable, get me familiar with the car and the track. I am ... confident with my abilities.”
He does admit to having an ulterior motive for getting behind the wheel of the powerful Daytona Prototype.
“I do feel driving this car does help me grow as a driver,” Johnson said. “I think running with (team owner) Bob (Stallings) and these guys the last few years has made me a better road course racer and I was finally able to get my first road course win out in Sonoma (last season).”
It is also a chance to expand his racing horizon, something that was a part of his early racing experiences.
“Growing up, I raced all types of vehicles,” Johnson said. “I like to mix it up and I like to feel different things. The adjustments that are made on these cars are different than a Cup car and I think it opens my mind up to another way of looking at things and maybe where our (NASCAR) cars could end up someday.”
Two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger — the pride of Roxton Pond, Que. — will make his third attempt to win the prestigious Toyota All Star Showdown at California’s Toyota Irwindale Speedway
The 24-year-old Ranger makes the grid as a result of his winning twice in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in 2010.
He will drive the No. 35 Waste Management Recycling Chevrolet.
Ranger will be joined by D.J. Kennington, the 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion at Irwindale.
The Toyota Showdown is considered the Daytona 500 of short track racing.
A new deal has been worked out between local Edmonton politicans and Montreal’s Octane Managemnet Group to breath life into the Honda Edmonton Indy. The race, earlier taken off the 2011 IZOD IndyCar calendar, will be pencilled in for the July 24th slot, right after the Honda Toronto Indy ... Brian Vickers is back in the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Sprint Cup Toyota. Vickers was at a test session this week at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., turning in his first laps since blood clots forced him out of the car last May. ... Chris Carrier has been named crew chief for former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. in the Camping World Truck Series. Carrier has more than 30 years experience in NASCAR, having won in Cup, Nationwide and the truck series. ... New inductees to the Canadian Motorsports hall of Fame were announced this week. They include Power Boat competitor Norm Woods of Bracebridge; ASN-FIA Canada vice-president Paul Cooke of Oakville; Road Racing competitor Jacques Duval of St. Bruno, Que., Power Boat competitor John Webster of Scarborough; Drag Racing competitor, the late Herb Rodgers, of Belmont, Ont.; Drag racing competitor Bob Elliott of Wingham; ASN-FIA president Roger Peart of Mississauga and Power Boat competitor Jean Theoret of Maple Grove, Que. ... From the about-time department (actually from SPEED.com) comes word that the IZOD IndyCar Series will adopt NASCAR-style double-file restarts for oval races this season, starting with the Indianapolis 500 in May.