Jimmie Johnson was declared the winner of Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway after sparking a huge wreck that collected nearly every car in the 20-car field.
With rain quickly descending upon the famous South Florida raceway, Johnson attempted an aggressive pass for the lead on the pole-sitting No. 21 Ford Mustang of Paul Menard. Cutting left to the bottom of the racetrack just as Menard also made a slight adjustment to the left, Johnson made contact with the No. 21 and sent it into the outside wall. The wreck collected every car behind Menard, with only Johnson, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano emerging unscathed.
Menard, who started on pole after a random drawing on Saturday, blamed the Wreck on Johnson and accused him of frequently driving aggressively at restrictor plate tracks.
“Jimmie does that a lot at these tracks, so that’s unfortunate,” Menard told FOX post-race. “Aggressive side-drafting caused that wreck.”
Johnson said the wreck was an unfortunate result of his frantic attempt to pass before the rain arrived. The race had been red flagged for rain two times previously.
“I knew the rain was coming, so I was trying to set-up my move and make my run on the No. 21 car,” Johnson told NASCAR.com. “I had it kind of set up down the backstretch a few laps prior to that, and then my opportunity came along. I made that move to the inside and then we kind of got together. I’m not sure if just the air breaking his bumper plane pulled his car over or if he was late to block, but it was just really a racing thing honestly.”
“So, I made my move and unfortunately he got sideways and it collected a bunch of cars.”
It was a successful weekend for Chevrolet in Daytona, with William Byron also taking pole position on Saturday for next-weekend’s running of the Daytona 500. Johnson’s old crew chief, Chad Knaus, departed to crew chief the No. 24 Camaro ZL1 for 2019, giving the former pairing of Johnson and Knaus two impressive accolades this weekend.
The 2019 Daytona 500 will go green on Sunday, February 17th at 2:30 p.m. Let’s hope it goes a little more smoothly than the rain-marred and crash-filled Clash.