TALLADEGA, Ala. – Throughout Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson patiently worked his way forward from his 16th-place starting position, running as high as third and battling with the fastest cars in the race.
On Lap 166 of 188, however, Johnson’s race fell apart, when he and Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron got too close together as they rolled into Turn 3. Johnson slid sideways in dirty air and collected both Byron and Paul Menard, triggering a 14-car wreck.
The melee eliminated the cars of Byron, Menard, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon. The machines of Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Brendan Gaughan also sustained damage.
The accident, however, didn’t affect the race winner. Joey Logano led the last 42 laps – through two cautions – and took the checkered flag .127 seconds ahead of runner-up Kurt Busch.
“I knew I had help somehow just the way it turned around,” Johnson said of the wreck. “Unfortunately, when I was sliding, the No. 12 car (Blaney) hit us and bent something in the rear end. It wasn’t the same after.”
Johnson managed a 12th-place finish. Byron, on the other hand, saw a solid run spoiled after leading 14 laps in his Monster Energy debut at the 2.66-mile track.
“Honestly, I think we just got side-drafted going into (Turn) 3 and got me a little bit free and then I think I just packed some air on his left rear,” Byron said of the circumstances that sparked the wreck.
“It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the end of the race, but we’ll learn from it and come back here in the fall and hopefully have an even better run.”