Jimmie Johnson triggers wreck, then wins Clash at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson’s youngest daughter prays every night for Daddy to win a race. When Johnson scuffled through the worst season of his career, he felt the strain of not reaching victory lane.

“It was putting some pressure on me,” Johnson said.

Johnson triggered a wreck that wiped out nearly the entire 20-car field at Daytona and zipped to the lead to win the rain-shortened exhibition Clash on Sunday.

The seven-time Cup Series champion failed to win a race for the first time in his career in 2018, but a dose of aggression put him back in victory lane during the opening weekend of Speedweeks. Johnson’s win capped a banner day for Hendrick Motorsports: teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman locked in the front row for the Daytona 500 earlier in the day in qualifying.

The celebration at Daytona comes with a caveat: the last Daytona 500 pole-sitter to win the race was Dale Jarrett in 2000, and Johnson’s victory doesn’t count in the official NASCAR record book.

Paul Menard led 51 laps and controlled the race interrupted three times for rain. With more rain looming, Johnson dipped low and tried to side-draft Menard as they battled for the lead. But Johnson turned Menard and started a chain-reaction accident that left cars sideways and smoking behind the No. 48 Chevrolet.

The wreck came 55 laps into the 75-lap event, and the race was called just four laps later. Kurt Busch was second, followed by Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Bowman.