By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Jimmie Johnson’s bid for a fourth Darlington Raceway victory ended in a last lap Stage 1 crash during Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400.
Throughout the stage, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion had a superb No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. This came into fruition once long green flag runs began to unravel and had a shot of being one of the guys to beat in the 293-lap race.
That became apparent after cutting his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman’s lead from 3.5 seconds down to a car length. Johnson would take the lead from Bowman on Lap 81 as lapped traffic, notably the No. 7 Chevrolet of Josh Bilicki, cut the gap and went low heading into Turn 3.
Johnson cleared Bowman and began pulling away to what might’ve been a Stage 1 victory to kick start a shot of capturing his first Cup win since Dover in 2017. However, those ideal visions came to a crashing halt as he ran into the back of Chris Buescher in Turn 2.
The contact put Buescher into the wall, but Johnson got the worst of the deal as he slid into the inside wall, ending his race after leading nine laps.
Johnson’s teammate William Byron went on to win the stage before his day fell apart on Lap 108 when he hit the Turn 3 wall before spinning it around in Turn 1 to bring out the fourth caution.
Johnson immediately apologized to his No. 48 team over the radio for the self-inflicting error and wished he could have that corner back.
“Coming to the end of the stage and just try to make sure I got a good run off of Turn 2,” said Johnson. “I felt like I was going to be able to exit the corner side-by-side with (Buescher) and things just went horribly wrong there.
“What a great car. I feel terrible for my team. We got a race cars and things are coming in the right direction. Just unfortunate that things just really didn’t turned out there off of Turn 2.”
It’s Johnson’s second DNF of 2020 and due to the accident, he’ll start 38th in Wednesday’s Toyota 500K at Darlington.