Defending and six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson will not be able to earn his seventh crown, becoming one of four drivers that were eliminated from advancing to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Eliminator Round.
Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne were all eliminated in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kahne finished ninth in the final standings, followed by Busch, Johnson and Earnhardt.
Johnson led the most laps in the race – 84 of the 194 eventual laps (six more than scheduled due to two green-white-checker restarts).
He thought he could get back up to eventual race winner Brad Keselowski in the closing laps, but was unable to do so.
“I made my move, got to his outside, looked in my mirror and I didn’t have any friends,” Johnson told ESPN. “I was given an opportunity to get back into the Chase after two bad races … unfortunately we didn’t get it done.
“For sure, there’s disappointment, but the disappointment has been the weeks leading up to this one. You’re not going to win every championship battle, even though you’d like to. We’ll be back next year. We’ll start thinking about (2015) now.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a late wreck with Greg Biffle that ended his hopes of advancing to the Eliminator Round.
“I don’t know, I don’t think I changed lanes,” Earnhardt said. “I was just following (teammate Kasey Kahne) and we got hooked, I guess. It looks like the 16 (Biffle) moved up into us.
“There wasn’t anything else I could have done. It’s just hard racing at the end of these races. We weren’t in a good position.”
Earnhardt led 31 laps and finished 31st as well.
“We had a good car when were in the lead,” Earnhardt said. “We just couldn’t get anything together to get back up to the front.”
As for the rest of the season, there’s just one thing left to do, knowing he won’t be racing for the championship anymore.
“We’re just going to try and win some more races before the year’s out,” Earnhardt said. “That’s all we have left.”
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