Jimmie Johnson thought he had help when he spun on Lap 167 of the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Instead, it was just a disturbance of the air as he raced in close quarters with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron. The No. 48 snapped to the left in Turn 3 and before he was done spinning and sliding on the apron, was hit in the left rear by Ryan Blaney.
And behind Johnson, 13 other cars were collected in the mess.
“It looks like a racing thing there,” Johnson said of the accident. “Something got [Byron] off the bottom. I was in the second lane, and he came up near my lane and then packed air underneath us and around it went.”
Johnson finished the race and was credited with 12th place, but he said the damage from the accident broke something in the rear of the car that made it “super draggy” and slow at the end.
“I think we just got side-drafted going into [Turn] 3 and it got me a little bit free and then I think I just packed some air on his [Johnson’s] left rear,” said Byron. “I haven’t seen a replay, so I can’t really tell.
“It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the end of the race, but we’ll learn from it and come back here in the fall and hopefully have an even better run.”
Before the accident, Byron had a strong showing and even led 14 laps.
Also involved in the accident were former Talladega winners Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Busch was seeking his fourth straight win while Keselowski was looking for his sixth Talladega win.
“There was just a wreck in front of me, and I couldn’t make any sense really of what happened, and we just got into it,” Keselowski said.
Austin Dillon destroyed his No. 3 when catching the grass.
“I just saw them wrecking in front of me, and I got it slowed down, I went to cut through the grass because everybody was kind of wrecking that way and when I hit the grass it just tore the oil cooler off of it,” said Dillon. “It sucks because we really wouldn’t have had any damage if I had rolled through the grass.
“It’s part of this race, and I hate it. We were on the good side of it at Daytona, bad side here. We’ll just go back to Daytona and see what we can do there.”
All drivers who were retired from the race due to the accident were uninjured.