Points leader changes engines

 

Chad Knaus(L), crew chief of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, assits in an engine change during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 18, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. — There must have been a sense of deja vu for Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.

Hours before the June race at Michigan, Johnson’s team changed engines in the No. 48 Chevrolet, forcing Johnson to give up his 10th-place qualifying position and start from the back of the field. Ultimately, Johnson finished fifth.

On Saturday morning, Johnson’s crew spent most of the first Sprint Cup practice session changing the engine once again, after specialists found a problem with the motor Johnson had used to claim the third starting spot on the grid.

“The guys saw something in warm-up this morning, and we were trying to sort through it before practice started,” said Johnson, who must drop to the back of the field for the start of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400. “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, but we didn’t want to oil the track or create an issue and crash our car.”

Michigan is one of five tracks where Johnson has never won a Cup race, and the engine issues will make the challenge of doing so more difficult for the five-time champion.

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