DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Paul Menard came close last weekend but did not win the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. He still went to Disney World.
Three days after the late-race run-in with Jimmie Johnson that derailed his chances, Menard said he was trying to turn the page on Sunday’s incident at Daytona International Speedway. He said that he spoke with Johnson on Wednesday morning, before his appearance later that afternoon at Daytona 500 Media Day.
“It is what it is, right? I felt like I was holding a wheel as good as I could,” said Menard, who led 51 of the exhibition race’s 59 laps in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford. “I thought up front would be a pretty safe place, too, but Jimmie did what he did to try to win. It was not intentional. Maybe I moved down a little bit, I don’t know if there was no room for error, and two cars collided. So that’s what it is. I spent the last two days at Disney World with my two little kids and had a good time.”
Menard will aim to regroup ahead of Sunday’s main event, the 61st Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Though he had pointed comments for Johnson — the race’s eventual winner — in post-race interviews, Menard indicated that he was trying to let the heated moments pass.
“We’re moving on,” Menard said. “What’s done is done. We’re not looking in the rear-view mirror on that one, just moving on.”
Johnson appeared in a later media session and said that after his discussion with Menard, there’s a better understanding between the two. Johnson’s stance that their late-race contact was not initiated on purpose hasn’t changed since Sunday.
“I don’t know if there’s really anything different,” Johnson said. “I mean, it’s great to have that conversation and talk to him. He knew then and he knows again after today, our phone call, that it wasn’t intentional. Looking back, I could’ve given him a few more inches, that way when he came down, there was a bit more margin for error between us. There’s always lessons to learn going back and looking at the tape and talking to someone about those things, but I think where he and I stand, I’m sure he wasn’t happy after the race, but he knew it wasn’t intentional, and it was more of racing thing than anything.”