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August 18, 2013

Another ominous start for Johnson at Michigan

Hendrick driver is winless in 23 Sprint Cup starts at track.

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Another Michigan mishap for Jimmie Johnson.

The five-time Sprint Cup champion crashed nose first into a wall in his No. 48 Chevrolet during a practice session Saturday. Johnson was evaluated and released from the infield care center, but the accident forced his team to prepare a backup car — and now he faces quite a challenge trying to win a Cup race at Michigan International Speedway for the first time.

“I’m a little puzzled as to why I spun out going in because I’ve had great entry stability — even on that run I had great entry stability,” Johnson said. “To me it felt like I lost downforce just from the traffic scenario. I’m not really sure — either way we have a torn up car.”

Johnson qualified third Friday, but he’ll have to start from the rear now with the backup car.

Johnson is one driver who could afford a problem like this. He’s won four times this season, leads the standings by a whopping 75 points and has already wrapped up a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But Johnson is plenty motivated this weekend. MIS is one of only five tracks on the Cup schedule where he has never won. He’s 0 for 23 in Cup races in the Irish Hills.

“Yeah, I do pay attention to the tracks I haven’t won at,” Johnson said. “It’s more on the front side going to the event and building excitement about racing at the track and wanting to win. When the race starts, it doesn’t go through my mind at that point.”

Johnson has come close at Michigan. In August of 2011, he finished a solid second. The following June, he was fifth.

Last August, he had to start from the back because of an engine switch. He was leading the race anyway with under 10 laps to go, but his engine faltered.

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