AVONDALE, Ariz. – Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson knew the task at hand Sunday at Phoenix Raceway – win and advance.
Elliott led 34 laps in Sunday’s race – 14 in Stage 1 and the other 20 with less than 30 laps to go.
But after utilizing the same set of tires for much of the latter stages of the race’s final segment, Elliott was ultimately passed while leading the field with 10 laps to go and took the checkered flag in second.
“It’s just such a bummer,” Elliott said. “Had a shot to go race for a championship next week, so we fought as hard as we could today.”
Johnson’s day, meanwhile, came to an end with one lap to go in Stage 2. After finishing the first stage inside the top 10, Johnson was battling in 11th when a blown tire sent him toward the wall.
“I really didn’t have any warning,” Johnson said. “As soon as I went in the corner and touched the brakes, the right front just blew.”
The damage forced the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS to the garage, ending Johnson’s day.
"Disappointed, for sure,” he said. “The last couple months we've been staying alive. At this stage, with the Round of 8 and then the Round of 4, you can't just stay alive, you've got to be hitting on all cylinders. And we just haven't been there, unfortunately.”
The results spelled the end of both teammates’ postseason runs, but both drivers couldn’t stress enough how proud they were of their teams as they advanced all the way to the Round of 8 finale.
“Man, I can’t say enough for our team and our Hooters Chevrolet this weekend,” Elliott said. “We fought really hard today and gave ourselves a chance.”
“I hate it for this team,” Johnson said of being eliminated. “They've worked so hard all year long and I'm very proud of their efforts. I know it's not the results that we want, but we're Hendrick strong.”
With one race to go, even without a championship on the line, both Elliott and Johnson – like their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – will look to finish 2017 on a high note.
“We just have to keep our morale high and go to Homestead next week and get ready to close out the season strong,” Elliott said, “and bring everything we’ve got come next season.”