Daytona 500 Notebook: Jimmie Johnson Disappointed in Toyota Debut at Daytona 500

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Jimmie Johnson Crashes Out in Toyota Debut Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images
  • Monday's Daytona 500 marked the first time that Jimmie Johnson drove a Toyota in NASCAR Cup Series competition.

  • An early crash damaged his car, and the Legacy Motor Club owner/driver spent the rest of the race playing catch-up.

  • Johnson is planning a partial schedule as a driver this year, with his next in-car outing planned for Dover on April 28.

For 21 years, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson drove a Chevrolet, winning three races at Daytona International Speedway, including two Daytona 500s. This year, the co-owner of Legacy Motor Club stepped into a Toyota for the first time in his career due to his team’s transition to that OEM.


And, unfortunately, nothing went as planned for the 48-year-old Johnson.

First, Johnson almost missed the Daytona 500 due to his involvement in a four-car accident with 10 laps remaining in his qualifying race. Damage to his Toyota Camry was minimal and he managed to pull off a 12th-place finish to earn the 23rd starting position in the Daytona 500 field.

Then, the 200-lap Daytona 500 was only five laps old when Johnson was caught up in a seven-car accident on the 2.5-mile track’s frontstretch. Johnson continued in the race, but finished 28th, four laps down to race winner William Byron.

“There’s optimism in the beginning, hopeful, we could straighten out the suspension and then at least run in the draft,” said Johnson, the only driver to compete in the Daytona 500 after being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“Then, as time went on, we realized the severity of the damage and we just had too much damage to even really hang in the draft unless I had a unique situation. So then, at that point it was just wondering if there were going to be more cautions and if we would gain some positions through the cautions.”

Johnson’s next race is April 28 at Dover.

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Corey Lajoie may have been the biggest surprise of the race, finishing in the top five for just the fourth time in his career.Jared C. Tilton - Getty Images

Corey LaJoie Kicks Off Season With Top-5

In recent years, Corey LaJoie’s strong performance in superspeedway races has many believing the Spire Motorsports driver will acquire his first NASCAR Cup victory on one of the tracks. LaJoie’s showing in the Daytona 500 keeps that possibility alive.

LaJoie led one lap, sidestepped a 23-car crash that eliminated several contenders, including pole position winner Joey Logano, and produced a fourth-place finish, his best-ever at Daytona International Speedway. It was just his fourth career top-five finish in 237 Cup starts.

“I got a lot of great experience leading the lanes, controlling,” LaJoie said. “Kyle Bush pulled about a 140 racing IQ move on me out of (turn) two and held me to the top. He was kind of baiting me to the top and filled the middle. So, I learned something there. Every time we come, I get a little better, a little more comfortable.