Jimmie Johnson’s late move scrambles Clash field
By Rick Minter/ Andrews McMeel Syndication
Paul Menard, driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, turned in one of the best driving performances of his career in Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona, only to see the win go to Jimmie Johnson after late contact between the two triggered a massive 17-car pileup on Lap 55 of a scheduled 75.
Johnson led the next four laps under caution before the race was called due to rain.
Menard, who set a Clash record for laps led with 51, said in a post-race interview that he just got crashed.
“Unfortunately, we just got turned there,” he said. “I didn’t really know what happened until I saw a replay. I felt like it was aggressive side-drafting. I got turned to the inside and hooked to the right and all hell broke loose.”
Johnson spent a good bit of his winner’s interview answering questions about his move on Menard.
“I didn’t try to crash Paul,” he said. “I didn’t drive through Paul. It was a racing incident. I’m very remorseful. I’m probably more remorseful than any driver in the field when stuff like this happens.
“I don’t crash people to win races. I looked in the mirror and there were a lot of cars caught up in it, and I hate that aspect of it. So absolutely I’m remorseful.
“But at the same time, I have a split-second decision to try to win a race, and I set up the pass and got position on him clean. I don’t know what triggered his car wobbling, and then the accident started from there.”
Second-finishing Kurt Busch said Johnson made a risky move on Menard.
“Johnson made a move on Menard, and he stayed in that no-zone — I call it the no-zone — in that left rear quarterpanel for way too long, and it just drug Menard around with him,” Busch said. “That’s some of the instability in the draft that these cars show. And that’s why we end up single file a lot … trying to make sure we’re making our move because sometimes … your move is your last move because the cars are so unstable.”
Busch’s comments about lots of single-file racing in the Clash, a non-points race for pole winners from the previous season and others, were echoed by Jamie McMurray, who is making his final Speedweeks appearances before taking a job as a commentator for Fox. He said the fact that there were just 20 drivers in the Clash was a factor.
“When we get 40 cars out there, it will be way better,” he said. “It’s hard at [restrictor] plate races when you don’t have enough cars on the track. … The [Gander RV Duels on Thursday] might be similar, but the [Daytona] 500 will be totally different, and hopefully it gets hot. If it gets hot and the track gets slick it will be way different.”
Joey Logano finished third ahead of Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman.
PHOTO CAPTION: Jimmie Johnson hoists the Clash winner’s trophy in Victory Lane. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR