After surviving a massive crash – and with an assist from Mother Nature – Jimmie Johnson drove to victory lane to open 2019 with a win in Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.
Johnson was drafting behind leader Paul Menard with 20 laps to go in the exhibition race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series when he got a run down the backstretch, and made a move to the inside of the leader. The two cars made contact, sending Menard out of control and setting off a massive crash behind him that gathered up 17 of the 20 cars in the field.
Among those caught up in the crash were Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr., Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick.
Moments later, the rains came, cutting the race short with 59 of the scheduled 75 laps complete and handing the win to Johnson.
It’s the third win in the event for Johnson, with his last coming in 2010.
“Yeah, I knew the rain was coming, so I was trying to set-up my move and make my run on the No. 21 car (Menard). 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 sideway and it collected a bunch of cars.”
Menard, who had led the majority of the race throughout the day, had another view of the incident.
“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.”
Menard had paced the field for 51 laps, usually trailed by fellow Ford drivers Joey Logano and Keselowski.
Johnson had begun moving his way into the top five, and when the second of three red flags for rain flew, was running in fourth position.
When the race resumed, he pushed Menard back to the lead, and would draft behind Menard until making his move on lap 55.
Kurt Busch finished in second, with Logano third, Ryan Blaney fourth and Alex Bowman in fifth.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona Beach, FL
Advance Auto Parts Clash – February 10, 2019
1. (13) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 59.
2. (19) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 59.
3. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 59.
4. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 59.
5. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 59.
6. (9) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 59.
7. (16) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 59.
8. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, 59.
9. (4) Ryan Newman, Ford, 59.
10. (10) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 58.
11. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 58.
12. (6) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 57.
13. (1) Paul Menard, Ford, Accident, 55.
14. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 55.
15. (12) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, Accident, 55.
16. (15) Clint Bowyer, Ford, Accident, 55.
17. (17) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 55.
18. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 55.
19. (14) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 55.
20. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 55.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 110.602 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 20 Mins, 1 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 20 laps.
Lead Changes: 5 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: P. Menard 0;K. Busch 1;P. Menard 2-24;A. Dillon 25-27;P. Menard 28-55;J. Johnson 56-59.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Paul Menard 2 times for 51 laps; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 4 laps; Austin Dillon 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap.