Jimmie Johnson Wins Rain-Shortened Clash after Massive Wreck

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 10: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway on February 10, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson, who had crashed in the past six running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash 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 three 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 third 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. 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.

“I got that move inside him, and I was hopeful the (No.) 1 (Kurt Busch) would follow me through, but I hate to see all these cars tore up. I think it was a racing thing more 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 was fast.”

Jimmie Johnson, on winning the Clash at Daytona after suffering through a winless 2018 season

Johnson’s victory came in his first competitive outing with new crew chief Kevin Meendering. Earlier on Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron had claimed the pole position for the Daytona 500 in his first qualifying attempt with Johnson’s old 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.

“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.”

Jimmie Johnson, on Hendrick Teammate William Byron’s Daytona 500 pole award

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.

“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.”

Paul Menard, on Jimmie Johnson taking the lead in the Clash at Daytona

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – The 41st Annual Advance Auto Parts Clash

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, 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. The Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  Four for 20 laps.

Lead Changes:  Five among four 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 two times for 51 laps; Jimmie Johnson one time for four laps; Austin Dillon one time for three laps; Kyle Busch one time for one lap.