Menard had led the majority of the race from pole position in his Wood Brothers-run Ford Mustang, but with rain threatening to end the race early, Johnson made his move on the backstretch on Lap 57.
Their collision triggered a huge pile-up that involved most of the field. Heavy rain then fell during the ensuing yellow, and the race was called soon after.
“Jimmie pulled down, I moved down a little bit, and the next thing I knew I’m getting turned in the left rear,” said Menard, who also pointed out that Johnson took him out in the July race at Daytona last year. “Jimmie does that a lot at these tracks, it’s unfortunate.
“We just got turned there. I didn’t really know what happened until I saw a replay. I felt like it was aggressive side-drafting. I got turned to the inside and hooked to the right and all hell broke loose.”
“It was a pretty tame race up until that point. We knew that last restart was basically a new race – a little dash for cash to the end. It was definitely expected.
“I’m surprised we actually got single-file up top again after that last restart, but I knew something like that was gonna happen. It was just a matter of time.”
Another Ford driver, Team Penske’s Joey Logano, managed to weave his way through the chaos to finish third, and said: “From my view, it’s just cars crashing and trying to avoid it, but it just looked like [Johnson] was trying to side draft Paul. I’m sure it’s not intentional, but he definitely dumped him.”
Paul Menard, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Mustang Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center, Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / LAT Images