The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion revealed that he’s to blame for the steering wheel coming loose, which caused the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to veer abruptly into the outside wall in the last of three qualifying rounds at the 1-mile track.
Many have asked, yesterday is on me. Nothing is wrong with the wheel, coupler or steering shaft. I didn't get the wheel locked into place.
"This one is on me," he said. "Last night with the chaos and the guys trying to get the backup car out, they didn’t have a chance to look at things closely. This morning coming in they have, and this one is one me.”
Johnson tried to get on the brakes briefly when the steering wheel fell off, but it did little to minimize the high-speed impact with the Turn 2 wall.
On Saturday, Johnson admitted to feeling "just totally helpless and along for the ride."
"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," he said. "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 racetrack and then it came off where it did. So just proves to me that it can happen anytime, anywhere."
"We’ve just got to make sure we get these wheels locked on," he said. "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.”
Johnson qualified fifth but will drop to the rear for Sunday’s Good Sam 500 (FOX, 3 p.m. ET) after going to a backup car. He was relieved to walk away from Friday’s incident uninjured.
“I feel good, just very thankful that I drive in an era with such safe driver compartments, softer walls, HANS device, all those things," he said. "Years ago that would have probably been a concussion at a minimum, and to feel as good as I do and no sore spots or aches or pains, is really good. It’s a good time for the drivers of today.”