Race Weekend Central

Hendrick Horror: Jimmie Johnson Crashes From Lead at Darlington Raceway

89 laps into The Real Heroes 400 Sunday (May 17), Jimmie Johnson was headed for just the third stage win of his career. The No. 48 led the way toward the green-and-white checkered flag at Darlington Raceway.

He couldn’t finish the job.

A win turned into a nightmare, a shower of sparks for Johnson as he crashed on the backstretch of the final lap. Making contact with Chris Buescher off turn 2, the No. 48 spun from the lead and hit the inside wall hard.

It ended a promising day for the leader of Hendrick Motorsports. After a random drawing determined he would start eighth, Johnson had taken the lead on lap 82 of the Real Heroes 400, in position to win NASCAR’s first race since the coronavirus pandemic. But the seven-time series champion, in the midst of a nearly three-year winless streak, couldn’t finish the job and simply misjudged his position on track.

“Gosh, what I would do to get that corner back to do it over again,” Johnson said in an interview. “Coming to the end of the stage, just trying to get a good run off turn 2. Things just went horribly wrong there.

“What a great car,” he added. “We have great race cars and things are going in the right direction. Just unfortunate.”

Johnson’s only two stage wins came at Sonoma in 2017 and Pocono in 2018. He hadn’t run inside the top 10 at Darlington since 2014 but was in position to do much better.

“I don’t want one single person to get down,” Johnson crew chief Cliff Daniels said to his team after the incident. “We’ve got a great race car, so don’t you get down.”

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates had also been running well, with Alex Bowman leading for several laps before fading. William Byron and Chase Elliott were also running inside the top 10, Byron taking the lead after Johnson’s misfortune and winning the stage.

But they couldn’t hang on. Shortly after Johnson’s incident, Elliott got nabbed for speeding on pit road. Then, after the stage two restart, Byron wrecked, the victim of a loose wheel.

Johnson will return to the track on Wednesday, May 20, for the Cup Series’ second race at Darlington at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Associated Press pool report contributed to this story.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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That might have been one of the most boneheaded situations in Johnson’s career. Why was he even trying to get past the 17 car in that situation? Glad he is okay and knocked himself out of the race but really.
Also Fox needs to rein in JG when announcing. He basically placed all blame on Buescher and none on Johnson even though replay clearly shows Johnson hitting the 17. It may have been a issue with the 17 but even so, the 48 car did hit him in an unnecessary scenario.

Glen H.

On the track, Jimmie Johnson drives into the back of Chris Buescher. In the booth, Jeff Gordon; “I can’t believe that Chris Buescher wrecked Jimmie Johnson!”. LOL!!!


Old age has definitely affected the vision of both Johnson and Gordon


Wait a few more years. It’ll be worse… Or til next event.

Tom B

This wreck for JJ wasn’t as devastating as the one at the ROVAL with Truex Jr. I kinda get why JJ was running that hard. He could of easily lost that stage win if he backed off the throttle too much.


Johnson thinks everyone should get out of his way because he’s 7 time Champ. Up until yesterday he hasn’t been fast enough for anyone to get out of his way. Oh how Chad is missed.

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