Jimmie Johnson accomplished something this weekend that no driver has done in over 30 years; he swept Daytona. With a win in the Great American Race and a victory in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400, Johnson became the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to win both races at Daytona, joining Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough as the only drivers to ever accomplish the feat.
“Gosh, growing up in Southern California and watching Bobby Allison, and I remember where I was the day [Bobby's son] Davey passed away (after a 1993 helicopter crash at Talladega),” Johnson said. “That’s how much the Allison family meant to me. I always thought it was great to watch Bobby and Davey race, and to do anything Bobby has done is pretty special.”
Last season, Daytona was not nice to Johnson. He was taken out of the race on the second lap of the Daytona 500 and in the July Coke Zero 400, he finished 36th after another wreck. This season, he was out for revenge and to show that he still could be a contender at plate tracks and boy has he proven that.
Johnson kicked off the season with a win and that put him on top of the point’s standings and since then, well, he has pretty much stayed there. Since the Daytona 500, Johnson has only been as low as third in points and that was for two weeks; Bristol and Fontana. During the course of the season so far, he has been as much as one full race ahead of second place. To say he is on a mission to reclaim his spot at the head table would be an understatement.
It’s been two seasons since Johnson sat on stage at the Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet. Two seasons since he hoisted up the Sprint Cup Series trophy in Homestead-Miami. Two season since Johnson was on top of the world. After losing the Championship last season at the very end, Johnson is more determined than ever to reclaim the spot that he held for five straight years.
Jimmie Johnson, with his history making victory this weekend, is well on his way to solidifying his spot in the NASCAR history books. Love him or hate him, he one of the best drivers NASCAR has seen and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon.
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Last week, NASCAR Analyst and former driver Kyle Petty made some bold statements regarding current Rookie driver Danica Patrick that took the motorsports and even the entertainment world by storm.
In a segment on SPEED Channel's weekly show RaceHub, Petty made comments about Patrick's ability to drive the car. He called her out saying that she is "not a racecar driver" and that she is "just a marketing machine" who has used herself appeal to gain sponsorship. While the latter may be true, Patrick is a marketing genius, saying she isn't a racecar driver is harsh, rude, and frankly, uncalled for.
Kyle Petty, the son of racing legend Richard Petty, made over 800 starts in when is now known as the Sprint Cup Series. In those 800 plus starts, Petty has eight wins and finished lower than 25th in points in over one-third of his 30 year career. It took him over 100 races to get his first win and about that long to garnish his first Pole award.
Danica Patrick, who has made 27 Sprint Cup starts, sat on the Pole for her first race as a full time Sprint Cup Driver and also has a top-10 finish under her belt. In just her second full season racing stock cars, Patrick has already made some major gains behind the wheel in her transition from the IRL.
Now, I'm not here to just compare Patrick to Petty, let's take a look at some other statistics for Rookie of the Year Candidates from past seasons.
This season, Danica's average finishing position is 25.8 and her fellow Rookie Competitor's is 19. Looking back on past Rookie's, Patrick's average is right in the norm of where she should be. (Special thanks to Stephen Conely for the ROTY Info!)
1984: Rusty Wallace Ave/17 starts: 19.6
1987: Dale Jarrett Ave/17 starts: 24.1
1991: Bobby Hamilton Ave/17 starts: 23.3
1993: Bobby Labonte Ave/17 starts: 22.3
1995: Ricky Craven Ave/17 starts: 24.4
1997: Mike Skinner Ave/17 starts: 27.2
2000: Dale Earnhardt Jr Ave/17 starts: 20
2001: Kurt Busch Ave/17 starts: 23.6
2005: Kyle Busch Ave/17 starts: 20.6
2007: Juan Pablo Montoya Ave/17 starts: 22.8 with 1 win
2009: Joey Logano Ave/17 starts: 21.4 with 1 win
Those are just a few of the Rookie's average finishes after 17 races in the past 30 years and as you can see, Patrick is right on track with where she should be in her progress and considering most of those men grew up racing stock cars, her efforts so far this season seem to be pretty good.
Looking at Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole, their three drivers don't have the best averages either. Tony Stewart, with one win this season, leads the group with an average finishes of 17.5 and Ryan Newman with an 18. Seeing as these two have years of experience in this series and Stewart is a three-time Champion, part of her struggles could be linked to the organization as a whole. Adding a third team, moving teams and pit crews around all on top of the new Gen-6 cars put SHR as a whole behind the pack.
Kyle Petty may have just been looking for attention when he made those comments about Patrick, but statistics show that she is right on track to being a great competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit. With just 27 starts under her belt, it is far too early to judge Patrick on what she can and cannot do. Give her a full season, maybe two, and if she is still running in the low 20s every weekend, then Petty's comments would be warranted, but until then, let the woman go out there and do what she does best, compete and race.
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