Johnson, Elliott forced to backups after practice crashes

Jimmie Johnson climbs in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Johnson was forced to go to a backup car after hitting the Turn 3 wall in opening practice. (Sean Gardner,Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. – A bad week quickly got worse for Chase Elliott.

Shortly after his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, clobbered the Turn 3 wall at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Friday’s opening practice session, Elliott did the same when he carried too much speed into the corner.

Accordingly, both Elliott and Johnson will start Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), the second race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, in backup cars.

Elliott finished second in last Sunday’s Round of 16 opener at Chicagoland, but NASCAR penalized the No. 24 team when the sanctioning body discovered unauthorized modifications designed to improve the aerodynamics of the car.

Docked 15 points for the infraction, Elliott is racing at the Magic Mile without the services of crew chief Alan Gustafson and car chief Joshua Kirk, who earned one-race suspensions. Veteran Kenny Francis is calling the shots from the pit box this week, and early in Friday’s first practice, he had a backup car to prepare.

“Just got kind of loose into Turn 3 and got up the track and ran out of room,” Elliott said after the accident. “I hate it. That’s not what we needed. We’re behind this weekend now, so that’s never good, but it’s Friday, so we’ve got another day and a half to get things turned around and try to get it fixed.”

Johnson said he was overly ambitious with his second lap and paid the price when he lost contact with the traction compound (PJ1) applied to the track to provide more grip in the first and third lanes.

“I had a good first lap, and entering Turn 3 for my second lap, just got in there with a lot of speed anticipated it sticking,” Johnson said. “It didn’t quite stick, and then once I got out of the PJ1, there was just really no slowing down or directing it off the wall at that point.

“Came around and it got the fence. Definitely not the way we wanted to start. Frustrating, but we will take it and go figure it out.”

Johnson later qualified 12th, Elliott 14th.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.