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.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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