Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson both want to feel ‘uncomfortable’ again in the Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona was barely a simple weekend drive for Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott

There were stomach-churning minutes of uninspired laps times, stressful misses out on in traffic and consistent pangs of doubt about whether they were doing more damage than excellent to their first-rate colleagues’ opportunities of winning the prominent cars endurance racing classic.

And all that pain is precisely why you can anticipate to see both NASCAR champs back in a cars on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile roadway course in the future.

“What I’ve realized is that stress and anxiety, and the butterflies and adrenaline and heart racing, questioning if I can do it — that is what I’ve experienced my whole life, and it makes me feel alive,” Johnson stated Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway after beginning the race and finishing 2 stints in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac. “And someday. I won’t have that opportunity, but I’m not ready to walk away from that now, and I really do like being uncomfortable in how it makes me feel and how it holds me accountable.

STATS PACKAGE: Full results and speeds from the 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona

“And, you know I’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool with weights around my ankles here for ‘21 and ’22, but it just makes me feel more alive than that I have in quite some time.

After his third runner-up finish in the Rolex 24, Johnson will have extra motivation to return for a ninth start in the season-opening event in hopes of earning his first watch.

<em>Jimmie Johnson works some social media magic (or maybe just takes a selfie) before the Rolex 24 at Daytona (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports).</em>
Jimmie Johnson works some social media magic (or maybe just takes a selfie) before the Rolex 24 at Daytona (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports).

Elliott also has major incentive just to continue the rapid improvement he was showing in his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series debut. After a very public self-flogging on national TV for a first stint he thought was underwhelming, Elliott improved during his second attempt at 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

That was expected to be his last time behind the wheel of the No. 31 Cadillac, but the defending Cup Series champion got a chance to get back in the car because the team fell out of contention. A gearing problem took 22 laps to repair, and the team changed up its rotation to give full-time drivers Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr a rest and allow Elliott and Mike Conway to split the final four hours.

Elliott drove a little more than five hours and was in the car when the checkered flag flew on a sixth-place finish in class, eighth overall.

<em>Chase Elliott was behind the wheel of the No. 31 Cadillac for most of the final four hours at Daytona (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports).</em>
Chase Elliott was behind the wheel of the No. 31 Cadillac for most of the final four hours at Daytona (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports).

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Elliott stated. “This is quite the event. What an amazing race this is. It’s an honor to be a part of it. I hope I get to come back and apply some of the things I’ve learned and be able to be more of a help next time around.”

The awkwardness was appealing for the Hendrick Motorsports chauffeur, who stated he selected the Rolex 24 for the very same factors he made his dirt racing launching in the Chili Bowl a couple of weeks previously.

“Just being uncomfortable,” he informed NBC Sports’ Kelli Stavast. “Getting out of your comfort zone. I think it’s a great thing. It’s something I’ve done a little bit of this offseason and just being open-minded about new things, and there’s a lot of little bits here and there about these type of cars that make them go fast that just take time to learn, for me at least.

“So just trying to put it all together. I’ve enjoyed the challenge probably more than anything else.”

Johnson likewise was up and down, stating he had “two good stints” (especially leading in the middle of the night) and “one bad one” (having a hard time with rhythm and traffic in his last stint).

Johnson didn’t invest as much time as Elliott in the automobile (simply except 3 hours and 49 minutes over 3 turns), however he appeared to enjoy it simply as much, even while biting his nails viewing colleague Kamui Kobayashi attempt to ferret out winner Filipe Albuquerque.

The seven-time Cup champ assured “I’ll be back again sometime in the future to give it another try” and now will turn his attention to the next obstacle: A part-time IndyCar schedule in 2021-22 with Chip Ganassi Racing.

As he found out in a test at Sebring International Raceway, it’ll be a very challenging shift – which sounds excellent to him.

“Emotionally, I’m really excited for the experiences ahead and being able to run in a series I dreamed of running in as a kid is a really special opportunity for me,” Johnson, 45, informed NBC Sports’ Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty.. “But at the same time, it’s not going to be easy.

“I’m not going to look very good for a while, so I know I have a lot of work ahead of myself, but I’m really enjoying the process and enjoying this journey.”

Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson both wish to feel ‘uncomfortable’ once again in the Rolex 24 initially appeared on NBCSports.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.