By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
An eighth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship will have to wait until 2018 for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team.
Entering the day in a must-win situation to be able to claim the final spot in the Championship 4 and advance on to Homestead, Johnson qualified 12th and was holding steady just outside the top-10 on lap 149 when he blew a tire entering Turn 3, sending his Chevrolet hard into the outside wall. The damage was enough to send him to the garage, bringing his run to a premature end.
“I really didn’t have any warning,” Johnson said. “I knew I was hard on the brakes, but the run before we didn’t have any issues reported back. So, I felt like I was kind of doing the same thing. Unfortunately, with so few laps to go to the end of the Stage, as soon as I went in the corner and touched the brakes, the right front just blew. So, I hate it for this team. They’ve worked so hard all year long and I’m very proud of their efforts.
“It’s obviously not the result that we want, but we’re Hendrick strong and I’m proud of my Team 48 and very thankful for this sport that Lowe’s and Kobalt gives us, and Chevrolet. Unfortunately, we won’t have a chance to make eight (championship titles) this year, but we’ll come back next year and try real hard.”
Johnson started off the season on a hot streak, winning three races, but as the second half of the season began and Toyota started to assert their dominance, Johnson and his team struggled, only finishing in the top-10 four times.
The playoffs weren’t much better as he made it to the Round of 8, but sub-par runs at Martinsville and Texas, two of his best tracks, put him in a must-win spot at Phoenix.
“I’m disappointed for sure,” he added. “The last couple of months we’ve been staying alive and 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.
“Again, I’m very thankful for all the hard work that’s gone into this and all the efforts from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and the team, but we just can’t get there right now. We’ll try again next weekend and then do some good changes over the off-season and come back next year and be ready to go.”