Hard shot, big fire end race for Johnson, McMurray

LONG POND, Pa. — Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray spun out on Lap 95 in what almost looked like a synchronized chain reaction midway through the Axalta presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Both drivers say their Chevrolets lost brakes. The reigning seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson spun hard into the Turn 1 wall while running seventh. Seconds later, McMurray also came down the track apparently without any brakes. His No. 1 Cessna Chevy hit the wall, sparking smoke and flames before coming to rest, allowing the 2010 Daytona 500 winner to climb out.

Johnson, meanwhile, sat on the track, resting against the wall briefly after climbing out of his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. After exiting from a visit to the infield care center, he insisted that he was absolutely fine.

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“When the brakes fail like that, there’s so much time to think about the crash and I just needed a minute,” Johnson said. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse than that. And to have it turn out where I basically just scared myself and got out of the car and walked away, I just needed a second to sit down and catch my breath.

“But, honestly, I have no sore spots or aches. I feel fine.”

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McMurray said he was also physically fine, although, like Johnson, it was a stunning turn of events just past the race’s halfway point. He had been running solidly in the top 10 all afternoon.

“Just lost the brakes and really weird that it happened at the same time that the 48 did,” McMurray said. “I didn’t even see his problem until I didn’t have any brakes. And then, it seemed like I might have gotten into a little oil. I don’t know if any came out of his car, but I just didn’t have any control.

“We were talking in the infield care center that we both turned left when we probably should have turned right instead of making a bigger impact.”

McMurray said his top priority was getting out of his car once he realized it was smoking and possibly parts on fire.

“I saw the fire before they told me on the radio and I was already trying to get everything off,” McMurray said. “I was wanting to get out faster but couldn’t get the car to stop. So I was literally rolling along and didn’t know I was moving as I was trying to get out.

“I could see how fast it gets hot inside the car, not warm, crazy hot so I was glad to get out.”

A red flag stopped the race for just over 23 minutes as workers cleaned up after the accident.

“I saw a replay inside the medical center,” Johnson explained. “The smoke, I think, is the brake fluid coming out of wherever failed and onto the rotors. I can only speculate that I got the brakes too hot and when I went to the brakes they just traveled straight to the floor. I didn’t even have a pedal to push on. At that point, I threw it in third gear and I was just trying to slow it down. 

“I just want to let my wife and kids and my mom know that I’m okay,” he said, smiling. “And I will go change my underwear and get ready to go home.”