DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In the hours before his final Daytona 500 start, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was riding bikes with his wife and two young daughters in the infield, enjoying the sunny Florida day and the good vibes before NASCAR’s highest-profile green flag flew.
On the grid before the race, Johnson’s daughters took turns sitting in the driver’s seat of their dad’s famed No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. And then moments later, their father rolled off and into the last Daytona 500 he’s scheduled to run before retiring at the end of the season.
For most of the day, Johnson kept the car upfront and looked absolutely ready to contend for his third Daytona 500 trophy… only to be collected in a late-race wreck while running in the top five. Johnson was caught in a 19-car accident with 16 laps remaining in the 200-lap race – a race won for the second consecutive time by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
With 17 laps left in Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski was running at the front of the field, a contender to win the Great American Race for the first time.
Barely more than half a lap later, Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford was wrecked beyond repair, the victim of a 19-car accident. The chain-reaction incident started when Joey Logano bump-drafted Aric Almirola’s Ford into Keselowski’s car, knocking it sideways near the front of the field.
Keselowski was eliminated from the race in 36th place.
“It was just one of those racing deals,” Keselowski said after leaving the infield care center. “We had a really good Discount Tire Ford. My team did an incredible job today to put ourselves in position to lead a lot of laps and run upfront. I am proud of the way we started with some fast race cars. Unfortunately, it didn’t come together there at the end.
I probably made a little bit of a bad move not blocking the 6 (Ryan Newman) and 95 (Christopher Bell). I didn’t know the 95 was that darn fast. He pushed the 6 like a rocket and I didn’t think they would come with that big of a run and when they did, I didn’t cover it. I put myself into a position where when they did wreck, I couldn’t make it through.”