Jimmie Johnson will start last in Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway after a crash in final practice Saturday necessitated a switch to backup car.
Johnson got loose entering Turn 1 and slid up the track where he pancaked the outside wall. While the defending and seven-time series champion was able to drive back to the garage, the No. 48 Chevrolet sustained considerable right-side damage, prompting the switch to a backup car for the Pure Michigan 400.
Michigan, a two-mile D-shaped oval, is one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks where drivers frequently eclipse 200 mph into Turn 1.
“You have to run so hard here that if the car slips it’s around and gone,” Johnson said. “I ran a half a second faster today in practice than I did in qualifying (Friday). So, with the grill open and tires on low pressure and all that, especially these morning sessions with overcast clouds you just run so hard that when something happens, it’s gone.”
The Hendrick Motorsports driver had qualified 22nd, but per NASCAR rules he will forfeit that starting position.
“Unfortunately, it put us in a big hole,” Johnson said. “Running a car without any practice is awfully tough.”
Johnson wasn’t the lone driver to encounter trouble during the 50-minute session. Both Kasey Kahne, Johnson’s teammate, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also had contact with the wall. Kahne will switch to a backup car, while Stenhouse’s team was able to make repairs.
Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski posted the fastest single-lap speed (200.865 mph) in final practice, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (200.172 mph), who won last week at Watkins Glen International.