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JOHNSON NOTCHES TOP-10

Jimmie Johnson led the way for Hendrick Motorsports with a top-10 result Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, but he said the outcome could have been even better had the race played out a little differently down the stretch.

“We really lacked short-run speed today, but we had great long-run speed,” Johnson explained. “The last restart I knew it wasn’t going to be favorable for us and it just didn’t turn out. But a decent performance, probably a top-five car or top-three car on the long run, just lacked too much on the short run.”

Ultimately, he took the checkered flag ninth for his first top-10 finish of the season. And he was happy with the racing all afternoon long.

“The track had a lot of lanes to work with and I think that was because of the hot temperatures and it felt like a really good tire that Goodyear brought here,” he said. “All-in-all a decent day for the Lowe’s Chevy.”


STAGE-WINNING ELLIOTT

Sunday at Phoenix, Chase Elliott led his first laps since the Daytona 500. In all, he led 106 laps – the second-most of the race – and earned a Stage 2 win in the process.

Though he finished just outside of the top 10, his average finish of 8.5 so far this season ranks third among drivers who have started every race.

“Proud of our group,” Elliott said. “We have fired off strong. We didn’t finish strong today, but I’m happy about how we started the season and the runs we’ve had.”

Elliott’s stage win not only earned him extra points in Sunday’s race, it netted one playoff point. Playoff points will accumulate throughout the season and be used once the playoffs begin, should that driver make the postseason.

“Nice to win a stage and get a point towards the championship this year, which is big,” Elliott said. “Those stage wins are going to be really important come time the playoffs start. I’m excited.”


BRAKE ISSUE FOR NO. 88

Late in Sunday’s race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. radioed to the No. 88 team that had nearly lost his brakes completely.

“The last half of the race, the brake pedal was just almost to the floor,” he explained. “I was having the same problem the No. 22 was having. He popped a tire. So, we were just trying not to pop a tire. Couldn’t run hard there the last probably half of the race, just kind of had to sit there and keep the brake pedal from going to the floor. You could run just hard enough to keep it from overheating the brakes, but you couldn’t really compete like you wanted to.”

The driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS said that contributed to his 14th-place finish at Phoenix.

“We just had a little better car than we finished, certainly top-10, but just couldn’t run it hard enough to get up there and do anything with it,” he said.