DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Paul Menard was well on his way to being the first Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona pole winner to win the race itself since Denny Hamlin did so in 2014. In fact, if Menard would have been able to pull off the win on Sunday, he and Hamlin would be the only two pole winners to do so in three decades.
Unfortunately for Menard, it wasn’t meant to be.
Menard, led 52 of the 59 laps in Sunday’s race but was crashed out on the backstretch when he and Jimmie Johnson made contact going into Turn 3. Both were running 1-2 at the time which due to their standing, sparked a 17 car melee.
Menard, would finish 13th in the 20 car field while Johnson would win.
Rain fell on the track after the yellow flag was displayed and due to a red flag coming out three laps later, the race was called. If Johnson doesn’t get into Menard, then Menard’s No. 21 Ford likely is the victor.
Johnson, gave his take on what ensued saying he’s here to win. He blamed the rain and Menard for the incident.
“Just knowing the rains coming,” said Johnson on the move. “We knew it was coming and knowing that this was my lap to make my move. I got below him before he blocked it. I think he came down a little bit to block. I got that move inside of him. I was hopeful the 1 (Kurt Busch) was going to be following me through. Certainly hate to see all these cars torn up. I’m here making my move, I’m there and it just starts coming over. I think it was just a racing thing. I hate it for Paul and the 21 and all those that lost race cars but I’m here to win.”
Menard though, didn’t see it that way.
“I moved down a little bit,” said a dejected Menard. “Next thing I know I’m getting turned in my left rear. Jimmie (Johnson) does that a lot at these tracks.”
Menard cited that Johnson crashed him at Daytona last July and that he’s good for at least one of these crashes each plate race.
The Wood Brothers driver finished third in this race in 2016 and has three pole in five Clash starts.