Jimmie Johnson wins The Clash at Daytona
Jimmie Johnson, who had crashed in the past six Advance Auto Parts Clash races at Daytona International Speedway, found a way to win the 2019 version of the season-opening exhibition race—by helping to trigger a wreck that eliminated nearly everyone else.
Moments before a rainstorm halted the action and ultimately made the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race official after 59 of 75 scheduled laps, Johnson—running second on Lap 56—pulled to the inside of leader Paul Menard, who moved down the track slightly as Johnson was attempting a close side-draft.
Contact between the cars in Turn 3 sent Menard spinning and caused a massive pileup behind him, damaging 17 of the 20 cars to varying degrees. Johnson took the lead in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and was declared the winner after NASCAR red-flagged the race because of rain for the third time.
The victory was Johnson’s second in the non-points Clash.
“Knowing the rain was coming—we could see it coming—and I knew that was probably my lap to make the move,” said Johnson, who suffered through a winless 2018. “I had a great run down the back. I got below him (Menard) before he blocked it, and then he came down a little bit, I think to defend and block.
Johnson’s victory came in his first competitive outing with new crew chief Kevin Meendering. Earlier on Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron claimed the Busch Pole Award for the Daytona 500 in his first qualifying attempt with Johnson’s former crew chief, Chad Knaus.
“I did mention to Chad that he was able to win me my first pole here for the 500, and he did the same for William,” Johnson said.
“I’m really happy for those guys. With this group of Ally team members I have behind me, these guys have been working so hard and we’re off to a great start this year.”
Kurt Busch, who was following Johnson on the backstretch, dodged the melee and finished second. Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney were third and fourth, with Alex Bowman completing the top five.
Menard had led 51 laps to that point in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford and had controlled the 20-car field from the head of the outside lane.
“Jimmie pulled out, and I kind of moved down a little bit, and the next thing I know I get turned in the left rear,” Menard said.
“Just aggressive. Jimmie does that a lot at these tracks. I had a really fast Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. Led a lot of laps but tore up a car for no reason.
“It was a pretty tame race up until that point. We knew that last restart (on Lap 48) was basically a new race—a little dash for cash to the end. It was definitely expected. I’m surprised we actually got single-file up top again after that last restart, but I knew something like that was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 – RACE WINNER
THIRD TIME WINNING THE CLASH:
“Yeah this is great to have all four Hendrick cars qualify 1-4, us in third with the Ally Chevy and then to have a very competitive race here today. I wish we could get in the full distance, but obviously the weather isn’t cooperating.”
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE BACK STRAIGHTAWAY WITH YOU AND PAUL MENARD?
“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. 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.”
DID THE IMPENDING WEATHER IMPACT WHEN YOU DECIDED TO MAKE YOUR MOVE?
“Without a doubt. I was going down into Turn 1 looking out into the distance and I could see it getting darker and darker and closer and closer. I knew within that lap or the next lap if I had a run, I had to take it.”
ANYTHING YOU LEARNED THAT YOU CAN TAKE TO THURSDAY OR SUNDAY FOR THE 500?
“Yeah, there is a lot to learn. These restarts are so important which lane you are in really makes a big difference and that is really what led to my success today.”
CONGRATULATIONS. YOU WON THE CLASH. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK IN VICTORY LANE?
“It feels good. I’m just really happy about honestly, a great day for Hendrick Motorsports, for Chevrolet, for Ally coming on board and qualifying third for the Daytona 500 and then to win the Clash. Kevin Meendering, leading this team; there have been a lot of things going on. I’m extremely excited to win. It’s not a points race, but it’s a good start.”
THERE HAS BEEN TALK ABOUT THE SPLIT BETWEEN YOU AND CHAD KNAUS. THE IRONY OF CHAD WINNING THE POLE WITH WILLIAM BYRON TODAY AND YOU WINNING THE RACE WITH YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF, KEVIN MEENDERING, MAYBE THE TWO OF YOU MIGHT BE OKAY WITHOUT ONE ANOTHER
“Yeah, you’re right. I hadn’t thought about that, exactly. But I did mention to Chad that he was able to win me my first pole here for the 500, and did the same for William. I’m really happy for those guys. With this group of Ally team members I have behind me, these guys have been working so hard and we’re off to a great start this year.”
COMMENT ON LAP 55 MULTI-CAR CRASH:
WHAT HAPPENED THERE WITH PAUL MENARD?
“Just knowing the rain was coming. We could see it coming. I knew that was probably my lap to make the move and I had a great run down the back. I got below him before he blocked it, and then I think he came down a little bit to defend and block. I got that move inside of him and was hopeful that the No. 1 (Kurt Busch) was going to be following me through. But I certainly hate to see all these cars torn up. I’m here, I’m making my move; I’m there. And then it just starts coming over. I think it was more of a racing thing than anything. I feel sorry for Paul. I feel sorry for all the teams that lost race cars, but I’m here to win races and this Ally car is fast.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 MONSTER ENERGY CAMARO ZL1 – Finished 2nd
YOU FINISHED SECOND, BUT THAT WASN’T REALLY THE WHOLE STORY IN THE RACE. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THIS RACE?
“It was a pretty crazy day with the rain and just the yellows and the line-up and it was just kind of everybody getting back in the groove, but man, there was a lot to digest especially with me on a new team. I love all the guys at Ganassi, Matt McCall (crew chief), I didn’t know we were quite pitting under green at lap 25, but those are just those little things that we will learn to iron out. Today was a great day for us to finish second, get some bugs worked out and to jump into next week’s qualifiers.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 21 MOTORCRAFT FORD MUSTANG
“That’s something for the history books, I guess,” he said. “Unfortunately, we just got turned there. 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.”
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