Crash ends Jimmie Johnson’s playoff hopes

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INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmie Johnson will miss the playoffs for the first time in his career after he was involved in a crash on Lap 104 while racing teammate William Byron for sixth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Johnson now has no chance for a record eighth championship this season.

“I’ve had 25 races coming into this where I’ve been worried about it,” he said about missing the playoffs. “Unfortunately, it’s happened. … I am impressed that we have been in 15 consecutive playoffs in a row. … Our record doesn’t stink. Wish we could have kept it going but life goes on.”

After the accident, Johnson was asked if he was OK. He responded: “I’m fine. I’m just curious why we were in that position.”

Asked about the accident, Johnson said: “We were three-wide going into Turn 2 and I knew (Byron) was super tight on me. I’m not exactly how the rest of it unfolded from there. I got sucked around.

“I just feel like that was a position there that William could have thought about the position he put us in. That could have been avoided I felt like.”

After his fourth-place finish, William Byron was asked about the incident with Johnson.

“I was trying to give (Kurt Busch) room because we were three-wide,” Byron said. “I’ve got to see a replay of it to be honest. I was trying to give (Busch) to not push him out of the groove and I felt like maybe I gave just an inch too much to (Busch) and an inch less room to (Johnson). I hate that the circumstances with (Johnson) that that happened. It wasn’t intentional. I was just trying to give room to all the guys around me and it’s tough when you’re three-wide.”

After the crash, Johnson drove the car back to the team’s hauler ending his race and playoff chances. He finished 35th.

“Thanks for the fight guys,” crew chief Cliff Daniels said on the radio to the team. “I promise you guys our season is not done.”

Johnson’s day was full of drama.

On his first pit stop, Bubba Wallace overshot his pit behind Johnson and stopped. Chase Elliott was hit and spun and the incident caused some problems with the right rear that forced Johnson to pit again, losing track position in the first stage. When the second stage did not restart in the final four laps, it robbed Johnson of a chance to gain more position and stage points. He finished behind Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez and lost some of the points he had gained on them by placing sixth in the first stage.

After exiting the care center, Johnson said:

“Definitely a disappointing outcome. We had some adversity to overcome. There was that pit road crash that almost wiped out my tire changer and then in the panic of dodging everything they didn’t tighten up the right rear tire and I had to come back around and pit.

“Coming from the back of the field to work our way through there, I think our car had good pace, just these restarts are so crazy with this rules package. Everybody is trying to get everything they can and we came out on the bad side of the deal there in Turn 2.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.