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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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”