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Jimmie Johnson, Travis Pastrana Qualify for 65th Daytona 500

Johnson and Pastrana locked themselves into Sunday's Daytona 500, qualifying fastest of the six open drivers.

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Six teams entered Wednesday night’s qualifying session for the Daytona 500 not knowing if they would be racing in the 65th running of the ‘Great American Race.’ Only two of those six cars would lock themselves into the race through qualifying, and with no practice there were no guarantees.

Not even seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was saved from the uncertainty of having to qualify or race his way into the Daytona 500 - a race he has won twice in his illustrious career.

Running the Legacy Motor Club No. 84 Carvana Chevrolet, Johnson was not locked into the race. This marked the first time Johnson was not locked into the Daytona 500 since his rookie season in 2002.

Posting a lap of 50.202, Johnson was the fastest of the open cars and secured his spot in Sunday’s race.

This Sunday’s race will be Johnson’s first at Daytona since 2020, his first in the NASCAR Cup Series since November 8, 2020, and his first as a driver-owner of the newly-rebranded Legacy Motor Club.


"It is a huge relief," said Johnson. "Came down here for my rookie season when the 48 team was just started up. We had to get in through qualifying. That was a very stressful moment. So I've kind of fallen back on that experience, although it was 20-something years ago now.

"But it was stressful. I'm just so thankful that the team put in the effort that they did to really help me. I'm not joking, when I was at the shop last week, the 42 team, the 43 team, were all on my car. Their cars were still sitting there with a lot of work to be done," he said.

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This was a huge collaboration and effort I owe to the entire shop.

Jimmie Johnson

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Joining the seven-time champion as drivers locking their way into the Daytona 500 through Wednesday night’s qualifying was extreme sports star Travis Pastrana, attempting his NASCAR Cup Series debut driving for 23XI Racing.

Pastrana has 42 NASCAR XFINITY Series and five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts under his belt, but this was his first attempt at a Cup Series start. Despite having no practice to get acclimated to the Next Gen car, Pastrana was able to post a lap of 50.208 to lock himself into the Daytona 500 and accomplish a life-long dream.

"They didn't really tell me anything," said Pastrana. "I assumed it's probably P3. We'll wait till the car behind finishes. I thought that meant I was P3 already. Oh, you got him by a couple car lengths. Congratulations. We're in?

"To be a part of The Great American Race, even looking at the little pass I got today that said 'Cup Driver'. This is cool. I'm a motorcrosser. I've done a lot of fun things. We've dabbled a little bit in NASCAR. I got chewed up and spit out by these guys really fast," he said.

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At the end of the day they're the best drivers I believe in the entire world. It's an honor to be able to race with these guys. To be able to line up in the 500 on Sunday will be a dream come true no matter what the outcome is.

Travis Pastrana

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The remainder of the open teams will have to race their way into the race via Thursday’s Duel 150-mile races. Two drivers will go home after the conclusion of the second Duel and will not race in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Front Row Motorsports’ Zane Smith, Beard Motorsports’ Austin Hill, Kaulig Racing’s Chandler Smith and The Money Team Racing’s Connor Daly will have to race their way in through the Duels.

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