NASCAR is back for the 2019 season, and Jimmie Johnson is the first big winner.
Johnson won the rain-shortened Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona Sunday, beating out 19 other drivers after the race was called with 15 of the 75 scheduled laps remaining. Paul Menard led most of the day, but Johnson took advantage after a massive collision on the 55th lap.
A third rain stoppage of the day was then enough to end the race early.
Although this event doesn't count toward the season standings, it was already a great start to the season for the No. 48 car ahead of next week's Daytona 500.
1. Jimmie Johnson (48)
2. Kurt Busch (1)
3. Joey Logano (22)
4. Ryan Blaney (12)
5. Alex Bowman (88)
6. Austin Dillon (3)
7. Chase Elliott (9)
8. Aric Almirola (10)
9. Ryan Newman (6)
10. Daniel Suarez (41)
Full results available at NASCAR.com.
Drivers can earn a spot in The Clash either with past success on this course, by winning a Daytona 500 or a pole, or with positive results last season. All playoff members from 2018 and any pole winners were eligible to compete in Sunday's race.
This left a small group of drivers ready to compete for a win, with Menard leading the pack at the start based on a draw.
After the first half of the race featured little but rain, the drama finally picked up with about 20 laps to go when a massive wreck caused damage to all but three cars.
Johnson tried to pass Menard for the lead but caused a crash that affected the entire race:
Nick DeGroot of Motorsport.com summed up the action:
Johnson escaped without damage and remained in front, which was enough to secure the victory after the caution led to an official end.
He also didn't show much remorse for the result after the race:
It appeared as though Menard would take the checkered flag if the race went the distance, controlling the early action and eventually leading 51 of the first 55 laps.
There was little aggression from the rest of the field early on, though, and even the drivers seemed bored from the lack of action in the early going:
A second rain stoppage didn't affect the standings with the No. 21 car still in front, although the big wreck affected everyone in the final result.
It was unknown how many cars would have been able to return to the track, but more rain led to an early finish and a second career Clash win for Johnson.
The drivers will get to spend the rest of the week around Dayton International Speedway preparing for the biggest race in the sport. The duels are set for Thursday, but the real season begins with the Dayton 500 next Sunday.