John­son trig­gers multi-car wreck, then wins Clash at Day­tona

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS -

DAY­TONA BEACH, Fla. — Jim­mie John­son’s youngest daugh­ter prays ev­ery night for Daddy to win a race. When John­son scuf­fled through the worst sea­son of his ca­reer, he felt the strain of not reach­ing vic­tory lane. “It was putting some pres­sure on me,” John­son said. John­son called the in­vo­ca­tion “cute to hear.” He didn’t feel the same about crit­i­cal com­ments say­ing John­son was past his prime. The 43-year-old John­son tweeted “I’m far from done” in the off­sea­son, and with a risky move in the rain, he showed there’s plenty left.

John­son trig­gered a wreck that wiped out nearly the en­tire 20-car 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 for the first time in his ca­reer in 2018, but a dose of aggression put him back in vic­tory lane dur­ing the open­ing week­end of Speed­weeks. John­son’s win capped a ban­ner day for Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports: team­mates Wil­liam By­ron and Alex Bow­man locked in the front row for the Day­tona 500 ear­lier in the day in qual­i­fy­ing.

“It’s been a pretty awe­some day,” Hen­drick said. “I hate we had the wreck there at the end, but it’s been a re­ally good day for the team.”

The cel­e­bra­tion at Day­tona comes with a caveat: the last Day­tona 500 pole-sit­ter to win the race was Dale Jar­rett in 2000, and John­son’s vic­tory doesn’t count in the of­fi­cial NASCAR record book.

PHELAN M. EBENHACK/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sev­eral rac­ers, in­clud­ing Martin Truex Jr., Denny Ham­lin and Kevin Har­vick are in­volved in a pileup dur­ing the NASCAR Clash on Sun­day at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way in Day­tona Beach, Fla.

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