The two cars made contact as Johnson attempted to pass. The contact sent Menard’s car into the wall, triggering a 17-car crash, while Johnson went on to win the rain-shortened race.
“It is what it is,” Menard said Wednesday at Daytona 500 Media Day. “I felt like I was holding the wheel as good as I could and I thought being up front was probably a pretty safe place. Jimmie did what he did to try to win. It was not intentional. Maybe I moved down a little bit, I don’t know. There was no room for error and two cars collided.
“What’s done is done. We’re not looking in the rearview mirror on that one. Just moving on.”
Said Johnson of their conversation: “It was great to have that conversation and talk to him. He knew then and he knows after our phone call that it wasn’t intentional. Looking back, I could have given him a few more inches. That way when he came down, there was a bit more margin for error between us.
“There’s always lessons to learn, going back on the tape and talking to someone about those things. I think where he and I stand, sure he wasn’t happy after the race with that, but he knew that wasn’t intentional and it was more of a racing thing than anything.”
Johnson was second to Menard and went to the inside to pass. Johnson moved his car close to the left rear of Menard’s car to side draft Menard and slow him. The cars then made contact.
“I didn’t think (Kurt Busch in third place) was going to go with (Johnson) because Kurt was sucking back up to me,” Menard said. “I was kind of like, go for it, see what (Johnson) could do. I wasn’t going to give up the outside.”
Johnson said he made his move knowing the rain was coming and the race would end soon.
“It really was a racing incident,” Johnson said. “I guess if there were two or three more inches in there when he made his move to kind of try to block, there would have been a couple of inches between us. At 200 miles an hour, in the draft, racing for a win, I saw the rain, I knew the rain was coming. I knew we were on the white-flag lap. I’m paid to be out there and be aggressive.
“If we just bump and nobody gets turned around (then) it’s the most the exciting finish we’ve had in the Clash in however long. But, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way and a lot of cars were torn up.”
Johnson reached out to Menard earlier in the week to talk but Menard was with his family at Disney World, leading to Wednesday’s call.