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.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.