AVONDALE, Ariz. – Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson knew they needed to win Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway in order to advance to the Championship 4.
And Elliott very nearly did.
After leading 14 laps in Stage 1, the driver of the No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS raced back up to the lead with less than 30 laps remaining. But on older tires, he lost the lead with 10 laps to go and took the checkered flag in second.
“That is such a bummer,” Elliott said. “We were so close to having another shot next week.”
Johnson’s run in the playoffs came to a close with one lap to go in Stage 2, when a blown right-front tire sent the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS into the wall and ultimately to the garage, ending his day. He was scored 39th.
"I hate it for this team," Johnson said. "They've worked so hard all year long and I'm very proud of their efforts."
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates outside the playoffs finished in between Elliott and Johnson.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Elliott inside the top 10 with a 10th-place finish, and Kasey Kahne took the checkered flag in 19th.
Matt Kenseth won the race.
Below is a closer look at how the four teammates fared Sunday at Phoenix.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne began Sunday’s race in 17th, but he fell to 25th at the end of Stage 1, regaining one position in Stage 2 to finish 24th. In the final segment, Kahne found himself down two laps in 25th. Though he lost one more lap to fall three behind the leaders, he began gaining positions once again, moving from 26th to 22nd with 55 laps to go, and when a caution flag waved with just 51 laps remaining, Kahne was the beneficiary of a free pass to regain one of the laps. Through multiple more cautions, Kahne picked up yet another lap and was only one lap down with 20 laps remaining, moving up to 19th in the process. That is where he would finish.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 HOOTERS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Elliott started Sunday’s race in fourth, and it didn’t take long for him to find the front of the pack, leading 14 laps in Stage 1 before finishing that segment in third. He remained inside the top 10 in Stage 2, finishing ninth. He kept the progress up in the final segment, running eighth on Lap 183 and gaining another spot to seventh less than 10 laps later. That is where he remained after a caution flag waved on Lap 228 before Elliott needed to make a green-flag stop. He maintained his position off of pit road and restarted seventh with 77 laps to go. Thirteen laps later, he had raced his way back up to fifth. When a caution flag waved with 60 laps remaining, Elliott had passed another competitor up to fourth. On the restart with 55 to go, Elliott rocketed all the way up to second before yet another caution. On the ensuing restart, Elliott fell back to fourth but quickly got back to work, passing Denny Hamlin to jump back to third with a little more than 40 laps remaining. After another caution, with 30 laps to go Elliott passed Martin Truex Jr. to move into second place, chasing down the leader. And one lap later he did just that, overtaking Matt Kenseth to lead the field with 29 laps to go. With 10 laps to go, however, Elliott relinquished the lead back to Kenseth. He kept battling, informing his team that the No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS was now tight, but he wasn’t able to close the gap before the checkered flag waved. Elliott finished second, just missing a chance to join the Championship 4. It marked his fourth second-place result of the playoffs.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Johnson took the green flag just outside the top 10 in 12th, but by the end of Stage 1 he had jumped up to 10th to pick up an extra point in the Round of 8 elimination race. As Stage 2 wound down, Johnson was battling just outside the top 10 in 11th. But with one lap to go in the segment, a right-front tire blew and sent Johnson toward the wall. The damage forced the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS to the garage, ending Johnson’s day – and his postseason run. He was scored 39th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Earnhardt rolled off the grid 14th Sunday afternoon, though at the end of Stage 1 he had fallen to 19th. He lost another spot in Stage 2, taking the green-checkered flag in 20th. Battling the handling of the car, Earnhardt remained on the lead lap in the final segment, battling back up to 16th by Lap 183. On Lap 228, however, the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS experienced a tire issue. Earnhardt was able to stay away from the wall and took the car to pit road under green. A caution flag flew shortly thereafter, however, with Earnhardt still on pit road, trapping the driver off of the lead lap. When the race went green with 77 laps remaining, Earnhardt was running 21st down one lap. When another caution flag waved soon after the restart, he was the beneficiary of a free pass to get back on the lead lap. Through multiple cautions, Earnhardt kept steadily climbing through the field until he found 10th with less than 30 laps remaining. That is where he would finish, taking home a top-10 result.