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Johnson triggers crash, then wins

Johnson triggers crash, then wins

It was an exhibition race that didn't count in the Monster Energy Cup series, but for Jimmie Johnson the Advance Auto Parts Clash was as important as any contest he has ever won.

It is Johnson's first Clash victory since 2005. Even though it's a limited number of laps in the sample we're using, two drivers have broken the 95+ laps led mark and no one else in this field is over 30 laps led in that same time frame and those two drivers account for three of the last five wins as well.

The race only featured 20 cars and was shortened due to rain.

The rain that ultimately ended the race was the third weather-stoppage of the race.

"I looked in the mirror and there were a lot of cars caught up in it", Johnson said.

Here is how Menard responded to being wrecked out of the race that he had dominated up until that point. "We're prepared. This is the first step of our process together". That contact resulted in Menard hitting the wall and a multi-car crash that involved most of the cars in the race on lap 55.

"Unfortunately, we just got turned, there", Menard said.

Little did they know what was about to happen before the final red flag that called the race. The last time I came here with a new driver, we sat on the pole. "Jimmie does that a lot at these tracks".

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When Johnson scuffled through the worst season of his career, he felt the strain of not reaching victory lane.

"I knew the rain was coming, so I was trying to set-up my move and make my run on the No. 21 [Menard] auto", Johnson said. I got below him before he blocked him.

Hendrick has been outspoken about how hard the 2018 season was on the organization, calling it one of the worst in team history. Johnson made it back to the start/finish line first and soon after the skies opened up, the race was called in Johnson's favour.

Having won at least one race since his debut in 2002, it was an unfamiliar feeling to be shut out in 2018.

"I think he came down a little bit to defend and block", Johnson said. "It did weigh on me and I can't wait to win and win often".

"It was putting some pressure on me", Johnson said.

Johnson and longtime crew chief Chad Knaus split at the end of last season after seven championships. The two had bickered in recent years and at one point had to be separated during a verbal altercation. Johnson's win capped a banner day for Hendrick Motorsports: teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman locked in the front row for the Daytona 500 earlier in the day in qualifying. Xfinity Series crew chief Kevin Mendeering was promoted to Johnson's team. "The combination, they both had tremendous desire, but it just needed something fresh".