BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The lineup for the Pure Michigan 400 got shaken up even before the end of the last Sprint Cup practice session.
With less than 10 minutes left in the final session, referred to as "happy hour" in NASCAR circles, the last few moments on the track were anything but for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Earnhardt's Chevrolet hit the outside wall as he was coming out of Turn 2 on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, and spun around, leaving Earnhardt facing in the direction of oncoming drivers.
"We were making changes on the car, and got the car too loose and it just came out and went running in the corner," said Earnhardt, who won the Quicken Loans 400 in June at MIS. "I was probably running harder than I should have been in practice."
Instead of the car he drove to win the Quicken Loans 400, Earnhardt will drive his backup car today in the Pure Michigan 400.
Earnhardt's shift was part of a post-qualifying, Saturday-morning shuffle among the drivers at MIS.
Earnhardt will start in the back of the 43-driver field, along with Jimmie Johnson and Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr.
As Earnhardt's red, white, and blue Chevy was taken off the track, his crew was already unloading the driver's backup car from the team hauler. Because of the automobile change, Earnhardt will start in the back of the field.
"I'm a little nervous about where our car will be," Earnhardt said. "I don't have too many laps on it. I'll have to use the first 10 laps to balance it out.
"We'll be patient. We've come in before in a hole here, and won the race, so I feel pretty good about our chances. We've just got to make sure we do all our homework here."
Johnson, who qualified third Friday behind pole winner Mark Martin and Carl Edwards, was placed in the back of the field after his team changed the engine in his Chevrolet Saturday morning. But a move could affect Johnson; entering today's race, Johnson leads the Sprint Cup driver standings, one point ahead of Greg Biffle and two points ahead of Matt Kenseth.
Hornish is expected to arrive in Michigan before today's Sprint Cup race and will start in the back of the field because he did not drive in qualifying at MIS. Parker Kligerman qualified 17th in the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge in place of Hornish, who drove in Saturday's Nationwide Napa Auto Parts 200 in Montreal, and because Hornish did not drive in qualifying, the car will be placed in the back of the field.
"The logistics of getting him back and forth were impossible," Shell/Pennzoil crew chief Todd Gordon said in a team statement. "It's another case of relying on our teammates to help us out with the race-day setup that we put in the car for Sam.
"If you had to choose a track where you had to start at the rear of the field and maybe had the worst spot on pit road, Michigan would definitely be the overwhelming choice."
Kligerman finished fourth in Saturday's Camping World Trucks VFW 200. If Hornish somehow is not able to make it to Michigan, Kligerman will drive in Hornish's place and start 17th.
Kenseth expects a race similar to June's Quicken Loans 400, despite the fact that the weather is at least 15 degrees cooler, and the fact that Goodyear issued a more durable set of left-side tires for today's race.
"The race always shows up when you get all the cars out there racing," Kenseth said. "I believe the tire is fairly close to the same, it might be a little quicker than that. I thought that it was tough conditions to race in June, but it made it a really entertaining race."
Marcos Ambrose, who set an MIS lap-speed record in June's qualifying for the Quicken Loans 200, believes the field will see some changes from the last Sprint Cup race at the track.
"It was a good race in June, and the cars start to react differently to the track as it starts to cure a little bit," Ambrose said. "I think you're going to see the lanes widen up some, and you're going to see more passes than the first race."
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.