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Driver Johnson dies after Sunday crash

Julius "Slick" Johnson, critically injured in a crash Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, died Wednesday night at Halifax Medical Center. The 41-year-old driver from Florence, S.C., sustained a broken skull and chest injuries in the multi-car crash late in the Daytona ARCA 200 stock car race, an annual event sanctioned by the Automobile Racing Club of America.

Johnson had been on a respirator since Sunday. He is the 23rd fatality from accidents at Daytona International Speedway.

Tampa's Langston doesn't make the field

Dennis Langston of Tampa came up short Thursday in his first attempt to make the Daytona 500 field. He needed to finish 15th or better in the second of the two Twin-125 qualifying races.

Langston, who blamed a poor engine for his showing, started 15th but finished 23rd. He earned $1,600 for his day's work.

It was a painful race for Rich Bickle Jr.

The only injury Thursday to any of the drivers was a hotfoot suffered by Rich Bickle Jr., who finished 15th in the first Twin 125 despite an overheated floor board.

Petty rejoins his old running buddies

Richard Petty slowly and steadily moved up from his sixth-place start in the first of Thursday's Twin 125-mile races until he took the lead in the 28th lap. It was the first time he had led at Daytona since July 4, 1984, when he won the Firecracker 400.

"It's more fun being up front," said Petty, who finished fifth. "I know more people up there."

Collier may Dash away from field today

If Jeff Collier's qualifying time for today's Florida 200-mile Dash is any indication, the race could be a runaway.

Collier, from Creswell, N.C., put his Ford Probe on the pole with a 166.553-mph lap. The next four cars, all Pontiacs, were qualified in the 157-mph range. A year ago, Collier started 37th and finished 24 in the race for four-cylinder compact cars.

Hollywood comes to town, brings money

Days of Thunder, the Tom Cruise film being shot here, "isn't a racing movie," co-producer Don Simpson said. "Racing films are boring and they never work. If you come to this movie to see wall-to-wall racing, you will be disappointed. Audiences don't go to the movies to watch racing. They go to races to watch racing."

Simpson and co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer came up with $100,800 to be split up among the Daytona 500's 42 starters ($2,400 apiece), plus undisclosed amounts to NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway to put two "movie cars" in the race for the first 100 miles. They will be driven by NASCAR drivers, most likely Greg Sacks and Bobby Hamilton.

And if there's a crash involving a movie car that knocks one of the competitors out of action, well, so be it.

"That's the chance you take any time you go out on the race track, whether the movie cars are here or not," NASCAR spokesman Chip Williams said. "Somebody's engine is going to blow up Sunday. Most likely somebody's going to crash. We've heard some concerns (from the drivers) but no objections."

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