Johnson takes blame for eight-car Talladega crash
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson acknowledged Tuesday he was at fault for an eight-car crash at Talladega Superspeedway that scuttled at least one other driver's championship hopes.
Johnson had denied responsibility immediately after Sunday's accident, which cost both himself and Mark Martin valuable ground in the race for the Nextel Cup title.
After watching tape of the accident that occurred 20 laps into the race, Johnson said he realized he ran into the back of leader Elliott Sadler to start the wreck. Johnson initially claimed he was pushed into Sadler by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I feel bad, I don't know what else I can say," Johnson said. "I started a wreck and took out a lot of good cars. That was the last thing I intended to do and I feel horrible for it. So I'm taking the responsibility.
"I needed to see the video to really understand what took place."
Johnson and Martin were the only two Chase for the championship drivers caught in the accident and it cost them dearly.
Johnson, who was involved in a later accident that ended his day, dropped from the top of the Nextel Cup leaderboard to fourth and is now 82 points behind new leader Tony Stewart.
Martin, meanwhile, plummeted to ninth in the standings and is 138 points back. He was angry after the accident, but criticized the racing conditions instead of Johnson.
But Johnson was widely blamed by the other drivers in the accident, especially Sadler.
"I guess he's trying to keep his streak alive -- he caused a big wreck here last year and he caused a big one again this year," Sadler snapped. "Maybe that's his way of racing here at Talladega ... try to get rid of everybody so he can win the race."
Johnson said he has apologized to Sadler, and left a message for Michael Waltrip, who flipped several times during the accident. He now believes the accident was caused because he got too close to Sadler entering the first turn, causing Sadler's car to bobble. Sadler had to slow to save it, and Johnson rammed into the back of him. Earnhardt then hit Johnson, starting the chain-reaction crash.
"That's the last thing in the world I wanted to do," Johnson said. "I went and spoke to Elliott immediately after the race and he knew. Even though he was upset, he apologized for saying some harsh things, but he knew what took place and that I got him loose before I actually got into him.
Johnson was also blamed for starting a 25-car accident at Talladega in April, a wreck that led Earnhardt to call him an "idiot" and create a wave of criticism about Johnson's driving style.
He said he knows this latest accident will follow him this weekend into Kansas, the fourth of the 10 races in the championship chase.
"It's not going to just disappear over the course of a week," he said. "I've just got to get in there and do my job and do the best that I can and try to get a couple weeks behind us and move on."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press