With roughly 10 minutes left in final practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. suddenly crashed. As such, NASCAR's most popular driver lost both his winning car from the last Michigan race and his 22nd starting position, because his team is using a backup for Sunday's race.
For Earnhardt Jr., this is a particularly tough blow as he was optimistic he could use the same car to sweep the season at Michigan.
"I feel pretty comfortable we will be fast," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. "We should be able to go out there and compete for the win. If we don't, I'll be pretty disappointed."
Earnhardt Jr. also joked on Friday that the only thing his team had done with his race-winning car since his victory was "wash it."
That wasn't the only bad news for Hendrick Motorsports on Saturday, as Jimmie Johnson had engine issues in the morning practice session. As a precautionary measure, the 48 team made an unapproved engine change and Johnson will also have to drop to the rear of the field for Sunday's 400-mile race instead of starting third.
"The guys saw something in warm up this morning and we were trying to sort through it before practice started," Johnson said after the engine change. "They took a deeper look at things right before practice started and decided to change it.
"We probably could have run some of this practice, but I think we had to change the engine regardless. We didn't want to oil the track or create an issue and crash our car."