Wreck a key to John­son’s win

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Dan Gelston

DAY­TONA BEACH, Fla - Jim­mie John­son trig­gered a wreck that wiped out nearly the en­tire field at Day­tona and zipped to the lead to win the rain­short­ened ex­hi­bi­tion Clash on Sun­day.

The seven-time Cup Series cham­pion failed to win a race last sea­son for the first time in his ca­reer but a dose of aggression put him back in vic­tory lane in the first week­end of Speed­weeks.

Eau Claire’s Paul Me­nard led 51 laps and con­trolled the race in­ter­rupted three times for rain. With more rain loom­ing, John­son dipped low and tried to side-draft Me­nard as they bat­tled for the lead. But John­son turned Me­nard and started a chain-re­ac­tion ac­ci­dent that left cars side­ways and smok­ing be­hind the No. 48 Chevro­let.

“I have a split-sec­ond de­ci­sion to try to win a race, and I set up the pass and got po­si­tion on him clean,” John­son said. “I don’t know what trig­gered his car wob­bling and then the ac­ci­dent started from there.”

Me­nard was po­si­tioned to win for Wood Brothers Rac­ing only weeks af­ter the death of team founder Glen Wood. Wood was 93 and had been the old­est liv­ing mem­ber of the NASCAR Hall of Fame when he died last month af­ter a long ill­ness.

“I felt like it was ag­gres­sive sid­e­draft­ing,” Me­nard said. “I got turned to the in­side and hooked to the right and all hell broke loose.”

The wreck came 55 laps into the 75lap event, and the race was called just four laps later. Kurt Busch was sec­ond, fol­lowed by Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bow­man.

By­ron wins Day­tona 500 pole: Wil­liam By­ron won the pole for next week’s Day­tona 500, giv­ing Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports the top start­ing spot for the fifth con­sec­u­tive year.

By­ron and team­mate Bow­man locked in the front row for “The Great Amer­i­can Race” dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing laps Sun­day at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way. They edged the other two Hen­drick driv­ers: the seven-time Cup Series cham­pion John­son and Chase El­liott.

The rest of the 40-car lineup will be set by two qual­i­fy­ing races Thurs­day.

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