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.

Malcolm Stewart sidelined by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.