By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
It could be a long Speedweeks at Daytona for Jimmie Johnson and rest of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
Reminiscent of their troubles at Daytona and Talladega last season, it seems their problem of spinning out all on their own has resurfaced in Sunday’s running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona.
Last season, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Chase Elliott spun out on their own in the Daytona 500 off of Turn 4, as well as similar incidents at Talladega later in the season. Those troubles seem to have found their way to another Hendrick Motorsports entry with the 2017 season getting underway.
Just 18 laps into Sunday’s race, Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet broke loose off of Turn 4 while running in the high lane, causing him to make contact with Kurt Busch, sending Busch’s Ford into the outside SAFER barrier. If not for Busch being there, Johnson would have been the one going for a ride.
Johnson was able to continue on in the race with minimal damage to the left front fender of his car, but his troubles were far from over.
At lap 49, Johnson was riding along in the low lane and Turn 4 was once again calamity corner as his car broke loose all on its own for a second time, but this time there was not another car to save him from spinning out completely and Johnson slid all the way to the inside wall just prior to the entrance to pit road.
With the spin and the contact with the wall, Johnson’s day was done and marked the sixth straight time that he would not finish the season-opening exhibition race.
“Last year there were a couple of issues there and it’s so bizarre because the car hasn’t been loose anywhere else,” said Johnson. “The first time I got loose, I got into the 41 and crashed him and I feel terrible for that. And then that time, I didn’t think it was going to turn around on me. I was out of the throttle, about half-throttle, just running along, and I’m not sure if the car behind me got close and helped my cause, but it had been very loose off of Turn 4 from the moment I crashed Kurt on.”
“Maybe the track’s changing. Certainly, we planned to race at night, and it’s weird because I’ve made a living out of a loose race car and to have it bite me this afternoon and unfortunately take the 41 out, I’m disappointed in myself and our situation for that.”
Johnson and his team will now work on going for the Daytona 500 pole later on Sunday afternoon and set their sights on getting their cars dialed in for the remainder of Speedweeks.