If you tuned into 2019’s version of the Clash to see the best restrictor-plate racers battle it out in thrilling pack racing, then you probably walked away disappointed. The season-opening race was something of a head-scratcher for longtime fans (like myself). The Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona can be summed up in three words: Riding, Raining, Wrecking.
For the majority of the green flag racing, which was exceedingly choppy, the “pack” was more of a train. Nearly all the drivers seemed content to ride around single file on the high side of the track. Paul Menard dominated the race by simply staying in the lead. After each yellow flag, there was a small contingent of guys who would try to get that bottom line hooked up, but they couldn’t make any ground. It was puzzling to see, as several times it appeared with some more help that bottom line could have made a dent in the high side’s stranglehold.
Mother Nature had designs of her own on how the flow of the race would go. A mere moments after the green flag dropped on lap 10 were under our first red flag of the 2019 season. After about 20 minutes we tried again. Thirty-three laps of single file freight train action later, the red flag flew again for rain. At this point, more than half of the race had been completed and I was expecting NASCAR to call the race. However, NASCAR decided to go back to racing which set the stage for the moment of the race.
On lap 54, the single file train lead by Menard came out of turn two and roared onto the backstretch. Jimmie Johnson, riding in second, makes a move to pass Menard on the low side. There is some debate as to whether Menard turned himself by blocking or that Johnson wrecked him. Either way, Menard’s spin caused a massive wreck that involved just about the entire field. Meanwhile, Johnson escaped with limited damage, but more importantly, the lead. Under the ensuing yellow flag, the rain returned and NASCAR called the race over at 5:07 p.m. ET.
Moment of the Race
The moment of the race was most certainly Johnson’s pass and the wreck that followed. Both drivers have pretty different viewpoints of the wreck:
Menard: “Jimmie pulled down, I moved down a little bit and the next thing I knew I’m getting turned in the left rear… Jimmie does that a lot at these tracks, it’s unfortunate.”
Johnson: “Knowing the rain was coming — we could see it coming, I knew that was probably my lap to make the move. I had a great ride down the back. I got below him before he blocked it. And then I think he came down a little to defend and block. I got that move inside of him and was hopeful [Kurt Busch] would follow me through. Certainly hate to see all these cars torn up. I’m here and making my move. I’m there and then he just starts coming over. I think it was more of a racing thing than anything.”
Here is the video of the incident, so you can decide for yourself who is to blame.
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— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) February 10, 2019