AVONDALE, Ariz. – Jimmie Johnson’s dream of an eighth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship will have to wait another year.
Johnson, who captured his record-tying seventh championship last year, saw his shot at an eighth championship come to an end when he blew a tire and crashed in turn three on the final lap of stage two during Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway.
“I really didn’t have any warning,” Johnson said about the flat tire. “I knew I was hard on the brakes, but the run before we didn’t have any issues reported back I felt like I was kind of doing the same thing.
“As soon as I went into the corner and touched the brakes the right-front just blew. I hate it for this team. They’ve worked so hard all year long and I’m very proud of their efforts.”
It was a rough end to the playoffs for Johnson, who struggled for speed throughout the 10-race championship battle. His best finish during the playoffs this year was third at Dover Int’l Speedway, which came at the end of the first round.
He hasn’t finished inside the top-10 since Charlotte in October, earning a best finish of 11th at Kansas Speedway despite two spins. He earned finishes of 12th at Martinsville, 27th at Texas and 39th on Sunday at Phoenix during the third round of the playoffs.
“The last couple months we’ve been staying alive and at this stage with the round of eight and then the round of four, you can’t just stay alive,” Johnson said. “You have to be hitting on all cylinders and we just haven’t been there unfortunately.
“Unfortunately we won’t have a chance to make 8 this year, but we’ll come back next year and try real hard,” Johnson said.