Johnson crashes from lead moments away from Stage 1 win

Nick DeGroot

Hendrick Motorsports looked strong early in NASCAR's return to racing at Darlington Raceway Sunday.

At one point, the team was running 1-2-3. 

With eight laps to go in the first stage, Jimmie Johnson was able to get around teammate Alex Bowman and take over the race lead. 

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Johnson was trying to fend off a hard-charging William Byron and Denny Hamlin for what would have been on first stage win of the 2020 season.

On the final lap of the stage, calamity struck as Johnson got into the back of Chris Buescher, who he was attempting to lap. The No.48 machine spun sideways and slammed the inside wall, ending Johnson's day.

"I don't want one single person to get down," crew chief Cliff Daniels radioed following the race-ending crash. "We've got a great race car. So don't you get down."

"Gosh what I would do to get that corner back to do it over again," a dejected Johnson told FOX after being released from the infield care center. "Coming to the end of the stage and just trying to make sure I got a good run off of Turn 2.

"I felt like I was going to be able to exit the corner side by side with him (Buescher) and things just went horribly wrong there. God what a great car, I feel terrible for my team, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports.

"We got great race cars and everything is going in the right direction. Just unfortunate that things didn't really turn out there out of Turn 2."

Johnson will finish 38th.

Soon after, Byron found the wall as well, sustaining significant right side damage after complaining about a possible loose wheel.