News & Media

Johnson's Daytona hopes dashed after one lap

February 28, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson's "comeback" -- if he really needed one -- ended barely one lap into Monday night's rain-delayed Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

A bump from Elliott Sadler's No. 33 Chevrolet turned Johnson's No. 48 Chevy into the outside wall near the exit of the tri-oval, just after the field completed the first lap. Moments later, David Ragan's No. 34 Ford plowed into Johnson's car.

"That side hit was hard," Johnson said after climbing from his mangled Impala. "We were all just trying to make our lane work -- a lot of energy in the lane. I was kind of pushing the 78 [Regan Smith] a little bit. I could feel some help from behind . . . just turned me around.

"When I was just sitting in the middle of the race track, I knew at some point someone was going to come along, unfortunately. David Ragan had nowhere to go. I unfortunately got drilled by him pretty hard. I'm just really, really bummed to start the season this way.

"For all the hard work that has gone into getting this Lowe's Chevrolet ready for tonight, we didn't get to complete two-and-a-half miles of green-flag racing. So I'm pretty bummed."

Johnson's car was too badly damaged to continue, and he retired in 42nd place. In addition to Ragan's and Johnson's, the cars of Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch also were severely damaged in the wreck, but all three eventually returned to action.

Ragan incensed over early wreck

If Johnson was bummed, Ragan was downright angry after his early elimination and last-place finish in his first race with a new team, Front Row Motorsports.

"I was just trying to see the monitor to see who I can be mad at," Ragan said after a quick trip to the infield care center. "It's ridiculous to sit around this long for the Daytona 500, and on the very first lap for someone to be driving as reckless as whoever caused that -- someone had to cause it.

"It's just a shame for it to be that early in the biggest race, the first race of the year . . . We'll have to pick up and move on. I can't wait to see who was the bonehead that did that."

Bayne KO'd in 500 defense

Bayne's defense of his unlikely win in last year's Daytona 500 also came to naught in the early wreck. After extensive repairs, he returned to the track, but by then, the No. 21 Ford was 32 laps down. That deficit grew as the race progressed.

"You spend a couple days waiting in the rain, and something happens on Lap 1, so what do you do?" Bayne said as his crew repaired the Wood Brothers Ford. "I tried to get as low as I could. I couldn't see what was going on. I got low and slowed down, and at the last second, I think it was the 34 car [Ragan] that hit us in the right-side door and put us into the grass.

"Man, this is tough. The guys worked so hard for this race. We were looking forward to it -- I hate that we're sitting here in the garage."