Jimmie Johnson elected not to attempt qualifying Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the 2-mile track where he owns a record six wins.
Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, made the decision to bail on qualifying and go straight to a backup car after Johnson lost control of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and went for a long slide through the infield grass during Friday’s lone Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Auto Club Speedway.
Johnson now will have to start near the rear of the 39-car field in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in 38th. He actually ended up being one of five drivers who did not participate in qualifying, with the other four — Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto and Gray Gaulding — failing to have their cars clear pre-qualifying inspection in time to get on the track.
For Johnson and Knaus, though, the decision not to qualify was all theirs.
“Unfortunately, we crashed the Lowe’s Chevrolet in practice today,” explained Knaus. “We crashed on our third run and had to pull out the backup car and didn’t get back out on the track. I just felt it was wiser to get the car prepared correctly rather than qualify poorly. I wasn’t comfortable putting Jimmie in a position where he would have to hustle a car that he hasn’t turned a lap in yet.
“We are all the way out here on the West Coast, and brought two race cars. If we were to crash this car, we would have to pull a car from a teammate and it would be a very difficult obstacle to overcome. We want to be prepared to put the best race car on the track for our driver, Lowe’s, Chevrolet and all of our sponsors. So we are going to take the time to do that by working on it this afternoon.”