Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Johnson wreck ensnares Patrick, others

DAYTONA BEACH — Danica Patrick's Sprint Cup debut started with sparks, and the Daytona 500 hopes of five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson ended early Monday night.

The two were among six cars involved in a wreck going into Turn 1 in the second lap. Elliott Sadler's No. 33 Chevrolet nudged Johnson, whose No. 48 Chevy veered into the outside wall before turning and sliding down the track.

David Ragan and defending champion Trevor Bayne, also involved in the crash, used "bonehead" to describe the move.

"We were all just getting up to speed, and I had some help from behind that got me out of control," Johnson said. "From then on, I was just spinning."

As Johnson spun, Ragan's No. 34 Ford slammed hard into his left side, nearly blowing off Johnson's hood and sending sparks shooting along Daytona International Speedway.

The aftermath collected Patrick, Bayne and Kurt Busch. Patrick's No. 10 Chevy also hit Johnson and sustained heavy damage to its rear.

It was Patrick's third wreck in her week at Daytona, after crashes in Saturday's Nationwide race and in Thursday's 500 qualifying. After her crew made repairs to her car, Patrick returned to the race down 62 laps to the leaders, earning cheers from the grandstands as she pulled out of the garage area.

Bayne and Busch also returned.

Johnson didn't return and finished 42nd, his worst finish in 53 starts spanning four series at the famed track. Since winning the 500 in 2006, Johnson has been 39th, 27th, 31st, 35th and 27th. "I'm just really, really bummed to start the season this way," he said.

Ragan didn't return and finished 43rd and last.

Halfway bonus: NASCAR reinstated a bonus of $200,000 to the team leading at the race's halfway mark. Martin Truex Jr. took that prize when Toyota teammate Denny Hamlin pushed him ahead of Greg Biffle in Turn 3 on Lap 100. Biffle retook the lead at lap later.

Future schedules: Shortly after postponing the Daytona 500 because of rain on Sunday, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said he expected to receive backlash from fans for moving the race back a week.

The race traditionally has taken place over Presidents Day weekend. That gave organizers a Monday rain day that was a holiday if bad weather forced postponement. NASCAR moved the event back a week this year to prolong the offseason and prevent future conflicts with the NFL if it moves the early February Super Bowl back in the future.

Chitwood said he didn't think this year's rain would prompt NASCAR to move the race back.

Prime-time effect: The postponement made this year's 500 the first to be broadcast in weeknight prime time TV. NASCAR president Mike Helton said Fox officials were involved in discussions with Sprint Cup and track officials about when the race should begin.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]

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