By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
AVONDALE, Ariz – Qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday afternoon turned into one of the more odd sessions of the early season, and it became all the more interesting after Jimmie Johnson wrecked in Turn 2 during the final round.
The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion put down a lap that ended fifth best on the timesheets, but following the hard crash Johnson will have to start the Good Sam 500 in a backup car at the rear of the field.
Johnson, 40, spoke about the accident after being evaluated and cleared from the infield care center.
“I don’t know for sure,” Johnson said. “That’s why we have to go back to the truck and talk about things. But, certainly, a lot of straight in an area of the track that I didn’t need to have straight.
“So, we’ll have to get to the bottom of it and see what went on. But, just a really hard impact to the outside wall. I’m thankful that we have Safer Barriers and soft walls. I’m very disappointed because we had a very fast race car and the guys have been working so hard to get this thing tuned-up.
“Thankfully, we have tomorrow to work on the back-up car and try to get it up-to-speed and get it going, but this is certainly not what we wanted right now.”
After a vague interview with the media as to the cause of the accident, Johnson confirmed through Twitter that his steering wheel came off.
About qualifying, the steering wheel came off. I know my interview was vague, but wanted to tell the team first. I'm thankful for soft walls
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) March 12, 2016
Of note: Johnson’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, blew an engine in Turn 4 during qualifying and will also start at the rear of the field.
Image: Ralph Freso/AP