LAS VEGAS — Jimmie Johnson’s comeback from a deep hole in the Cup points standings took another hit on Saturday during the opening minute of the second practice session.
Before Johnson completed his first lap, the No. 48 Chevrolet slid sideways into the Turn 2 wall, forcing the champion to a backup car and a trip to the rear of the field for the start of Sunday’s race.
“I had to chase it up the track,” Johnson said of his efforts to save the car after it began to slide. “Once I got into the gray — the dirty stuff — it was over from there . . . I was just trying to get all that I could and trying to see what the limits of the car were, and unfortunately I found them in practice — I guess better in practice than in the race.
“But I know we’ve got a real fast setup to put on this (backup) racecar.”
After a 42nd-place finish in the Daytona 500 and 25-point penalty for infractions discovered before that race, Johnson is 38th in the Cup standings, despite a fourth-place run last Sunday at Phoenix.
Hendrick Motorsports will present its case in an appeal of the No. 48 penalties on Tuesday. NASCAR inspectors discovered unapproved modifications to the “C” posts of Johnson’s car during opening-day inspection at Daytona.
The sanctioning body slapped crew chief Chad Knaus with a $100,000 fine and a six-race suspension. Car chief Ron Malec also drew a six-race suspension.
Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon were docked 25 points each.
Shortly after Johnson’s accident, Marcos Ambrose spun off Turn 4 and slid through the infield grass. Ambrose was able to the save the car and returned to the track shortly thereafter . . . Defending race winner Carl Edwards said his No. 99 Ford felt great during the second practice session. The bad news was that the car lacked speed. Edwards was 29th fastest in Happy Hour.