- • NASCAR author for ESPN.com
• 2009, 2013 NMPA Writer of the Year
• More than 25 years expertise masking motorsports
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Jimmie Johnson will not vie for a file eighth NASCAR Cup championship subsequent week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His irritating playoff run continued Sunday after a flat tire resulted in a crash, ending his day simply in need of midway via the elimination race at Phoenix Raceway.
Johnson has had a depressing playoffs, with 4 consecutive finishes exterior the top-10 heading into Phoenix. He was 51 factors behind the cutoff going into the race Sunday, dealing with a digital must-win state of affairs to make it among the many 4 finalists.
He completed ninth within the opening stage Sunday, which mathematically eradicated him from having the ability to advance on factors as he battled Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott for the final spot obtainable to be among the many 4 championship finalists at Homestead. He was operating 11th when he crashed on lap 149 of the 312-lap race, which relegated him to a 39th-place end.
“It’s disappointing,” Johnson mentioned. “I anticipated this to be a extremely scrappy race to the top. We had good pace. I do know I wasn’t main the race, however my lap occasions in comparison with the leaders was respectable.
“With some technique or alternatives the place we had clear air on the entrance, I believe we had a shot at it. That is what we have been attempting to place ourselves for.”
Johnson mentioned he didn’t suppose he was working the brake exhausting sufficient that it might create sufficient warmth to blow the right-front tire.
“I felt just like the run earlier than stories again have been that the brakes have been good and we did not have something to fret about and sadly, I simply bought them a bit of too scorching attempting to cost exhausting and put up a lap time that was wanted,” Johnson said. “Such a bummer, it truly is.
“We have been staying alive, and that is not going to cut it for [late in the playoffs]. We put a lot of effort into the whole season, especially the last couple of weeks and I just feel terrible that we didn’t get better results than what we have had.”
In the 4 years of the elimination-style system, Johnson has made the championship spherical solely as soon as — final yr, when he gained his seventh Cup title on a day the place he ran behind the opposite championship contenders for a lot of the day however capitalized late due to some crashes and a few late changes giving him a powerful automobile on the finish.
Johnson hopes a brand new entrance finish of the Chevrolet vehicles subsequent yr — the pbadenger automobile the Cup automobile will emulate would be the Camaro as a substitute of the SS — will badist Hendrick Motorsports be extra aggressive.
Johnson wasn’t the one one to have hbadle when attempting to advance. Hamlin led a race-high 193 laps however was battling for third when Elliott and him banged doorways, and Hamlin scrubbed the wall. Several laps later, Hamlin blew a tire and slammed into the wall with a bit of greater than 36 laps remaining.
Elliott quickly grabbed the lead and led 19 laps earlier than Matt Kenseth handed him with 10 laps remaining, holding on to win and conserving Elliott from advancing. For Elliott, on the lookout for his first win in his 76th profession Cup begin, he felt Hamlin had taken away his probability to win and advance two weeks earlier at Martinsville when Hamlin dumped him for the lead with a pair laps remaining.
“A wise man once told me that he’ll race guys the way they race him with a smile on his face,” Elliott mentioned after this second-place end. “That’s what I did. I raced him how he raced me. That’s how I saw it.”
Hamlin mentioned there was a distinction between Martinsville and Phoenix.
“It just proves of what drivers are capable or willing to do,” Hamlin mentioned. “It additionally proves that he’s no totally different than I’m. Mine was clearly unintentional. He had intention as we speak.
“That’s his prerogative. I used to be attempting to remain away out of the way in which. I gave him the underside line, however he ran us into the fence.”
Hamlin additionally indicated that if Elliott had gained, Elliott would have had a tricky time to win the championship.
“It’s all truthful however now we’ve nothing to race for and he presumably does so it is all truthful,” Hamlin said. “It’s going to be powerful sledding.”
Keselowski, who completed 16th, superior to be among the many 4 championship finalists.