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.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.