Jimmie Johnson made his first three Winston Cup starts in 2001, the
season in which he scored a breakthrough first NASCAR Busch Series
victory in only his fourth season in stock cars while preparing to
advance his career to the next level. 

While he qualified an impressive 15th in his first start, at Lowe's Motor
Speedway, Johnson's best finish was only 25th, at Homestead. He
primarily concentrated on maintaining his top-10 standing in the
Busch Series point standings. 

Johnson, with a limited number of stock car starts on his resume, was
the third man in the 2000 Busch Series rookie invasion, but he had an
impressive enough rookie season to end it with a Hendrick
Motorsports contract to compete in the Winston Cup Series in 2002.
Johnson, a former off-road racer, started 31 races and finished 10th
in the point standings with six top-10 finishes. 

Even though Johnson's consistency was what earned him his point
position, with 24 top-25 finishes and an average finish of 20th, the
enduring image of him from 2000 is his crash through the Styrofoam
blocks at Watkins Glen after a Turn 1 brake failure. Due to the great
seasons by fellow rookies Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday, Johnson
finished only third in the rookie of the year standings. 

Johnson, an off-road racer who won championships in the Mickey
Thompson Stadium Championship from 1992-94, won the ASA
ACDelco Challenge Series Rookie of the Year Award in 1998 and had
made less than 100 stock car starts in his career heading into the
2001 season.

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