Almost any scenario that happens to Jimmie Johnson during Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be an improvement.
After crashing on the last lap of Sunday’s Clash at Daytona International Speedway, Johnson was hoping to secure a decent starting spot for the 500 with a decent run in Thursday night’s first Can-Am Duel.
It didn’t work out.
On the ninth lap of the 60 lap qualifying race, Johnson felt a tire going down just past the start-finish line. He dropped down out of the racing groove, but entering turn 1 the tire went completely flat and Johnson was turned up into the outside wall collecting the car of Aric Almirola.
“As I was coming into the tri-oval I could feel the car starting to shake,” Johnson said. “There is kind of a shake when you have a soft tire and I knew what it was and tried to pull out of line and I thought I had it under control, but as I exited the tri-oval, it finally went flat and turned me sideways and unfortunately, I collected Aric (Almirola) in the process.”
Both cars were too damaged to continue, and Johnson, along with Almirola will start from the back of the field Sunday, in backup cars.
“I’m devastated for the work and effort that goes into these cars and more on the crew side,” Johnson said. “I know the next car is going to be fast. I know all three cars we have built are really good and strong. I just hate that we have been through three cars down here a lot of different Speedweeks. That part bothers me. But, I do feel very confident in the car we are going to roll out and what the team will be able to put under me.”
Then on lap 38, Johnson’s new teammate William Byron was running ninth when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got underneath him. Stenhouse made no initial contact on the rear corner but took the air off Byron, and the Chevy was sent nose first into the wall. Byron was done for the night.
“That was kind of the worst possible spot to get on my quarter panel and I just lost it,” Byron said. “I just got sucked around-the air moved me around. Other than that, it was going pretty well before then. I hate it that we tore up a car but we will go to work and get ready for the 500. We were all kind of riding in a single-file line, and a couple of guys were trying to make the bottom work and just got sucked around.”
David Gilliland spun in turn 1 on lap 46 and hit the wall. He too will need a backup for Sunday.
Finally, Brad Keselowski was third in the final laps when he collided with Jamie McMurray who was trying to pass on the outside. Keselowski was done, and will need his backup.
In the second race, a three car crash started when eventual winner Chase Elliott got to the back of Erik Jones and brought out the races only caution on lap 11. Jones spun up into Kyle Larson and Matt DiBenedetto spun behind. DiBenedetto and Larson were done for the night, but Jones suffered only minor damage and was able to continue. Austin Dillon also suffered slight damage but was able to continue.
Larson and DiBenedetto will be in backups at the rear of the field Sunday.
“Just hate that we tore up another car and my guys are going to have to get another Credit One Bank Chevy prepared before tomorrow morning practice,” Larson said. “We just didn’t really want to crash today. That stinks. I haven’t seen a replay or anything but it kind of looked like the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) got into the No. 20 (Erik Jones) in the middle of the corner. Seemed like we were all good then they started spinning on exit and I had nowhere to go. Part of superspeedway racing–that’s why we love it.”