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“So to experience this after the five championships, what I’m getting at is this is like winning a championship,” Johnson said. “I’m just as busy and there’s just as much reach for myself, my sponsors, my team, as it did from winning a championship. It’s amazing the impact of this single event.”

Johnson doesn’t have to tell any of that to Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2004 winner and Sunday’s runner-up.

“Yeah, it’s like a drug, I assume. It’s such a high,” Earnhardt said. “You just don’t know when you’ll ever get that opportunity again, or if you’ll ever get that opportunity again. I’m ready to do it again. It’s been too long.”

While nothing’s bigger than winning at Daytona, Johnson’s contract extension with Lowe's Companies Inc. is an important early-season development in what was otherwise shaping up as a contract year, something drivers always hope to avoid. Johnson and Lowe's will be partners through at least a 14th season in 2015.

“The stability is the key,” Johnson said. “To know that that’s done and literally the season’s starting, we don’t have to worry about that as a lot of teams do, field those questions and concerns. Honestly, it’s a great honor.”