Jimmie Johnson triggered a wreck that wiped out nearly the entire field at Daytona and zipped to the lead to win the rain-shortened exhibition clash on Monday (AEDT).
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 Speed weeks.
Paul Menard led 51 laps and controlled a race that was interrupted multiple 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.
The wreck came 55 laps into the 75-lap event, and the race was called just four laps later. Kurt Busch was second, followed by Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Bowman.
Johnson had already proved at Daytona he was good on the long run – and with the 48 in the garage. He competed in the 40 to 44 age division early Sunday in the Daytona Beach half marathon and finished with a time of 1 hour, 34 minutes, 18.4 seconds.
“When you drive into somebody and spin them out, you know what you did”, said Johnson. “I pulled up alongside another car and a wreck started. I’ll take whatever blame is fairly supposed to be put on me, but let’s remember that rain is coming and how many plate races have we seen where there’s aggressive driving to try to win the race? That’s simply all I was doing”.
“I didn’t try to crash Paul. I didn’t drive through Paul. It was a racing incident. I’m very remorseful. I’m probably more remorseful than any driver in the field when stuff like this happens.