Based on the first day of 2008 Sprint Cup Series testing at Daytona, it seems that little had changed.
Jimmie Johnson, the circuit’s two-time defending champion, had the fastest speed in a day of single-car runs at 184.782 mph. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Casey Mears was second fastest and Jeff Gordon was sixth. Kyle Busch, who drove for Hendrick last year and now is with Joe Gibbs Racing, was third fastest.
The fourth member of the Hendrick lineup, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won’t test until next week’s session. But Earnhardt Jr. was at the track on Monday, too, trying to learn and do all he can to fit in what was last year’s strongest team with 18 victories in 36 races.
Johnson also picked up another award for 2007, earning top honors from the Driver of the Year panel. Johnson got 14 votes from the 18-member panel that makes that selection. ChampCar World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais got two votes, while World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz and Busch champion Carl Edwards got one.
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As for the season ahead, Johnson said he’s ready to give a three-peat his best shot.
“Last year we had a great time,” he said. “I only anticipate this year being better. Looking back on last season, we feel we made some mistakes, and we can still be stronger yet. ...I think we're going to have to be.”