Jimmie Johnson explained Saturday how the steering wheel coming loose from the column during his qualifying run caused him to crash in turn one.
Johnson's car entered the corner perfectly fine and then shot straight to the wall. The impact demolished the right side of his car. Johnson was uninjured in the crash.
“Yeah, as I came into Turn 1 just working my way through the center of the corner and jumped in the gas and as I jumped in the gas, I guess I pull on the wheel when I do that," Johnson said. "As I pulled on the wheel it just came off in my hands. "So, I was just sitting there with no steering and holding the steering wheel staring at the blue wall and I was along for the ride at that point.”
Johnson said the issue was "on me." And he said he would take further precautions beginning immediately to make sure the steering column is locked in place when he leaves pit road to make sure something like the crash doesn't happen again.
“I got to the brakes briefly," Johnson said. "I remember looking down at the steering shaft and seeing it spinning and I knew there was no way I could get the wheel back on. It was all happening so quick. The interesting thing is I made it all the way down pit lane, got out on the track, made a lap and a half around the race track and then it came off where it did. So, just proves to me that it can happen anytime, anywhere. I would assume it would have happened leaving pit road pretty soon. But we’ve just got to make sure we get these wheels locked on. I’m going to make some small changes in my routines in getting in the car. We have lines in the steering shaft to make sure that your steering wheel is straight; I’m going to have an additional line to make sure that the steering wheel is on far enough and hopefully it is locked at that point. To be honest Jeff Gordon gave me that suggestion last night when I was talking with him. I’m going to put that into effect right away.”
If you look closely at Johnson's visor in the GIF below, you can see the steering wheel pop off the column and his car turn towards the wall.
Because Johnson's team had to break out a backup car, he'll start Sunday's race from the back of the pack. And thankfully the scary incident wasn't much worse than it was.
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