Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne eliminated from Chase

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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.”

30 Seconds to Know: How does the Chase Eliminator round work?

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Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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