DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson said he made a mistake, causing Kyle Busch to spin in the first qualifying race Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, but Busch was not happy.
This was the second time in Speedweeks Johnson has been at the center on an incident. Contact with Paul Menard spun Menard, triggering a 17-car crash in the Clash last weekend while Johnson went on to the win. Johnson finished eighth in Thursday’s qualifying race.
Johnson apologized for the contact with Busch and said he planned to talk with him at the earliest opportunity.
“He ran into me,” said Busch, who finished 18th, meaning he’ll start at the rear of the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500. “Flat out. Watch the television.
“You have to open your eyeballs to see where the (expletive) you’re going. That’s about all I can say.”
Crew chief Adam Stevens said the damage was repairable and they would not be going to a backup car.
Johnson’s right front hit the left rear of Busch’s car as they ran underneath Tyler Reddick down the backstretch. Busch spun off course but was able to continue.
Johnson explained what happened: “So we’re three-wide coming through the turn. I’m looking out the windshield, my rearview mirror and my third mirror trying to judge if the line is going to follow me, if the line is going to follow Kyle and where the third car is. In that environment, I was wanting to get behind Kyle and I think my eyes were in the wrong spot, so I didn’t have the good sense of perception of where I was with Kyle, trying to manage my mirrors and I just got it wrong. I thought I knew where I was with my right front and I just had it wrong.”
After the contact sent Busch sliding down the backstretch, Johnson radioed his team: “I don’t know what happened. Damn it.”
Soon after, Johnson apologized on the radio.
“Apologize to the 18,” Johnson said. “I assume that’s on me. Got to see the video first. I don’t know what happened.”
Busch was relayed the message on his radio.
“Tell him I don’t know want to hear it,” Busch said. “That’s twice he’s done same thing in two … races.”
As for two incidents in two races, Johnson said: “I firmly believe the Clash was a racing incident. This one was a mistake on my behalf. Everybody makes mistakes.”
Asked if he needs to prove anything to the rest of the field after being in the center of two incidents in Speedweeks, Johnson said: “I don’t think from a field standpoint I have anything to worry about there. I’m sure fan perception will be different. From the field standpoint, I don’t have any concerns there.”