Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash wound up being more of a crash, as a massive wreck occurred on Lap 55 of the scheduled 75-lap race at Daytona International Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson, who was one of the original cars involved in the crash, was awarded the win after heavy rain came down four laps later while the race was put under caution, and then prompted NASCAR officials to end the race 16 laps short of the scheduled 75 laps.
More than half of the 20 cars in the field were involved.
The wreck began when race leader Paul Menard appeared to slightly move down the track and into the car of Johnson, who was running second at the time.
The two made contact, with Johnson tagging the left rear of Menard’s car, sending Menard hard to the right and toward the outside retaining wall, with numerous cars being collected in the resulting mayhem.
“I moved down a little bit and the next thing I knew, I was getting turned in the left rear,” Menard told Fox Sports 1. “We tore up the car for no good reason. … It sucks that aggressive side drafting caused that big old crash.”
Johnson told FS1, “We could see (the rain) coming, I got below him before he blocked. I think he came down a little bit to defend and block. I moved inside of him … and he just came over. I feel sorry for Paul and other teams that lost race cars, but I’m here to win races.”
At the time of the incident, Menard had led 51 of the first 55 laps.
“It feels good to be back in victory lane,” Johnson said. “I’m extremely excited to win. It’s not a points race, but it’s a good start.”
Ironically, Johnson won with new crew chief Kevin Meendering, while Johnson’s former crew chief, Chad Knaus, led William Byron earlier in the day to win the pole position for next Sunday’s Daytona 500.
The race was delayed three times due to rain, with the third time bringing about the end of the event.