The NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix is the first big event after Daytona 500 and event champion Jimmie Johnson will have some momentum entering the race after taking home his second career 500.
Johnson will be in the second row on Saturday for the race and will be driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. The champion will be racing in a Nationwide car for the first time in two years since racing at Watkins Glen in the 2011 season.
"I appreciate Junior letting me run one of his cars,'' Johnson said in a team release. "My goal is to make my team owner so proud that, perhaps, he'll invite me back more often than once every two years.''
Danica Patrick will also be running in the race on Saturday, but will be starting 40th after a rough day on the track, a far cry from the pole she won last week at the Daytona 500. Patrick became the first woman to ever win the pole at the event and also led the race for a number of laps, becoming just the 13th driver to lead both Daytona and the Indianapolis 500.
Johnson enters the race after earning his 61st career victory on the Sprint Cup circuit and comes to Phoenix after inking a new two-year deal with his primary sponsor Lowe's. His race on Saturday will be his 93rd Nationwide start, of which he has one win. The last time he raced in a Nationwide event was in 2011 when he finished second at Watkins Glen.
"I think that I should run well. My goal is to get more experience on the track," said Johnson, who has one top-5 and two top-10s in five previous JRM starts. "It will be fun, for starters. I always have fun when I get to drive for Junior. I get to see my old friend, Greg Ives [Johnson's former engineer who is now crew chief of JRM's No. 7 Chevrolet], and some other familiar faces on the team."
Kyle Larson will be racing on Saturday just a week after his scary crash at Daytona that saw his car go airborne. The accident sent debris into the grandstand, injuring 28 spectators at the race. The rookie said he was "physically fine and mentally perfect" and that he would have no issues getting back into the car after the crash.
The race last week forced driver Michael Annett out of the race on Saturday, as he suffered a fractured sternum in a different crash that came before Larson's. Aric Almirola will take over for him on the Nationwide circuit while he recovers from surgery,
Clint Bowyer was asked on Friday about his last race at Phoenix, an event in November that saw Jeff Gordon wreck his car on purpose, effectively eliminating him from the Chase.
"I've had a lot of good ones and one bad one. One was really bad," Bowyer said.