Jimmie Johnson performs a burnout through the infield after winning the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. / Douglas Jones, USA TODAY Sports
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jimmie Johnson said he was going for the picture every Daytona 500 winner dreams of: the one with the car sliding across the massive DAYTONA logo on the infield grass.
But Johnson miscalculated his celebration. When he turned off the track to the grass, the right front of his car suddenly dug into the turf and tore up part of his race-winning car.
"The damage was pretty bad, I'm not gonna lie," he said Monday. "...I knew instantly when it grabbed the dirt I had a big problem."
Johnson, speaking at a breakfast after inducting his car into the Daytona 500 tour office - where it will remain for a year - said his burnout "didn't go as planned."
At first, Johnson was worried the damage was similar to Carl Edwards' incident after the 2011 NASCAR All-Star Race, when the driver severely damaged his front end while celebrating in the grass.
"I'm looking at my gauges, and I still had water pressure and water temp," Johnson said. "So I knew the radiator was still in it."
Johnson said he knew there would be conspiracy theories that he damaged the car intentionally. ("I can only imagine," he said.) In 2011, crew chief Chad Knaus was caught on an in-car camera telling Johnson to purposefully crack the back of his car if he won in order to avoid scrutiny.
NASCAR later added extra inspections on the No. 48 car for the remainder of the 2011 season.
There were no such worries this time.
"I just saw (NASCAR president Mike) Helton," Johnson said. "He wasn't overly upset with me, so that was good."
He added: "Luckily, they don't measure heights on the front of the car anymore."
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