DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Within fewer than 50 laps Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, Jimmie Johnson went from a battle for the lead with teammate William Byron to two laps down outside the top 30, then back up to ninth to secure a top-10 finish.
It certainly made for a wild Daytona 500 for Johnson and the No. 48 team.
“The start of the craziness,” as Johnson put it, began when competitors were involved in an incident behind Johnson as they all headed to pit road with 40 laps remaining in the race.
Johnson was inside the top-five at the time and elected to make a green-flag stop. But one of the cars involved in the incident slid into the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and damaged the rear quarter panel.
“I’ve never been hit like that on pit lane,” Johnson said. “Certainly not something that we were anticipating. That just set off a chain reaction of events from there.”
From there, the No. 48 team was given a penalty for improper fueling during their pit stop as the team dealt with the damage. That put Johnson two laps down, but as cautions mounted near the end of the race, he was able to regain both laps – and he even questioned whether being far back in the pack might have actually helped the No. 48 team avoid extensive damage in the many multiple-car incidents that occurred down the stretch.
Ultimately, through it all, he was proud to have come away with a top-10 finish to start the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“There is a lot to manage that last 30 laps from an issue with trying to get the fueler neck in place to fuel the car, which resulted in a penalty, to getting those two laps back, working on the car multiple times, multiple crashes,” Johnson recounted.
“For a first true race together as a group, a really, really brilliant day.”