Wreck a key to Johnson’s win
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.