One moment, speeding down the front straightaway Jimmie Johnson was having a normal NASCAR Cup Series day at Pocono Raceway.
The next one?
That’s what Johnson said went through his mind as the brakes failed on the No. 48 Chevrolet. With no warning, the pedal went to the floor and the seven-time champ was faced with the reality of hitting the turn 1 wall at nearly 200 miles an hour.
“I could see a puff of smoke and I knew I was in big trouble,” he said. “I quickly stuffed it into third gear, tried to slow the car down, and fortunately had a decent angle when I hit the wall into turn 1.”
Luckily, Johnson’s angle moved to the point he didn’t hit the wall headfirst. But the No. 48 still took a scary ride, followed seconds later by the No. 1 Chevy of Jamie McMurray. McMurray’s brakes oddly failed on his car at exactly the same time.
“I didn’t even see his problem until I didn’t have any brakes,” McMurray said. “Maybe I got into a little bit of oil as well. I don’t know if something came off of his car, but I just didn’t have any control.”
While Johnson’s car slid to a stop, McMurray’s kept going as a fire enveloped on the front of his Chip Ganassi Racing machine. That led to a few scary seconds as he worked to unlatch himself from the race car and quickly get out.
“When I threw the steering wheel off my dash, it bounced back and got my legs pinned,” he explained. “I couldn’t get out for a second. I went from trying not to panic from full blown panic.
“It’s amazing how fast it gets hot inside the car. I don’t mean warm, I mean crazy hot. So I was really glad I was able to get out.”
Both drivers remarked how they turned the wheel left, not right which caused a more serious impact with the outside wall. But when a mechanical failure like that happens at nearly 200 miles an hour there’s not a whole lot of time to think.
“You really have like one move,” Johnson said. “I didn’t waste time trying to pump the brakes because I knew it wasn’t going to help me there, so I put it into third gear.
“I wish I would have just turned right and just done a railslide along the outside wall. That really would have softened up the angle of impact and been much less of a crash for me. But you have that quick reaction, and that big, inviting grassy area and all that distance down there. ”
Both Johnson and McMurray were out of the race on the spot. Their wreck was the only major crash at Pocono Raceway and the only caution outside of the two stage breaks through the first 130 laps.
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