Johnson crashes, will start Sunday from rear in backup car

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A crash in this morning’s final practice will force Sprint Cup championship leader Jimmie Johnson to abandon his Row 2 starting position for tomorrow’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Early in the session, the five-time Cup champ lost control in Turn 3 before slamming into the Turn 4 wall.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in “Happy Hour,” Johnson returned to the two-mile oval in a back-up car that he’ll use in the race. But that means he’ll have to start at the rear of the field after qualifying third yesterday afternoon behind pole sitter Joey Logano and Kurt Busch.

Johnson was still able to lead this morning’s session with a lap at 199.457 miles per hour, which came when he still had the services of his primary No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Juan Pablo Montoya (198.758) was second-quickest in the session, followed by Greg Biffle (198.725) in third, Busch (198.451) in fourth, and Jeff Gordon in fifth (198.446).

Austin Dillon, Marcos Ambrose and Trevor Bayne – all of whom will now make their way to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for this afternoon’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race – were sixth, 24th and 28th on the time sheets respectively.

Speaking of that event, Michael McDowell earned pole for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 earlier this morning with a lap of 84.450 seconds around the winding 2.26-mile road course.

A.J. Allmendinger will start second, followed by Australian V8 Supercar veteran Owen Kelly and Kyle Larson in Row 2.

Weather prompts INDYCAR to move up start time of today’s race in Alabama

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The scheduled starting time for today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park has been moved up due to inclement weather in the Birmingham, Alabama area.

The command to start engines is now scheduled for 3:01 p.m. ET, rather than the previous scheduled start of 3:35 p.m. ET. The race, which is expected to take the green flag at 3:08 p.m. ET,  will be carried live on NBCSN.

In addition, the INDY LIGHTS race, previously scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET, saw its starting time moved up to 11:45 a.m. ET.

According to several different weather forecasts, thunderstorms are predicted for the afternoon, with some forecasts calling for up to 100 percent chance of storms.

The rain is expected to continue into the evening and on into Monday.

INDYCAR officials are monitoring the very fluid situation and further schedule adjustments could be made.

We’ll keep readers up to date on further changes here on MotorSportsTalk.