Comments from the eliminated drivers
By Dominic Aragon
November 12, 2017
AVONDALE, Ariz.—Four drivers were eliminated from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff contention Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
Two of the four eliminated drivers did not finish the Can-Am 500.
No. 11 DENNY HAMLIN (-19 POINTS BACK)
Hamlin led the most laps in the Can-Am 500 along with picking up 19 stage points.
Contact with Chase Elliott during Stage 3 appeared to lead to a tire-rub issue with Hamlin ultimately hitting the Turn 3 wall. He finished 35th, out of the race.
“Each person had their own opinion of how they do things and it just proved to the people that thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing in the same circumstances, so, I mean, you know, it’s just part of racing,” Hamlin said.
“I got into him and he chose to retaliate, so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is. We did a great job all day. This is the best car I’ve had in a very long time. We just got behind on the pit stops and then that just gave those guys an opportunity to get close.”
No. 21 RYAN BLANEY (-23 POINTS BACK)
Blaney started on the pole and led 11 laps, but did not earn stage points. He finished 17th.
“It’s disappointing, but at the same time we have a lot to be proud of for sure,” Blaney said. “The nine weeks that we had is something to be proud of. It’s a shame we’re not racing for the championship, but we can still try to win the race.”
No. 24 CHASE ELLIOTT (-25 POINTS BACK)
Elliott led three times for 34 laps, but was passed for the lead by eventual race winner Matt Kenseth with 10 laps to go.
“We were so close to having another shot next week,” Elliott said. “But man, I can’t say enough for our team and our Hooters Chevrolet this weekend. We fought really hard today and gave ourselves a chance.
“Our car was really fast on those short runs after a caution and after pit cycles on tires. It fired off really good and we did pretty good on the short run all day and got really tight as the run went long.
“And once the rubber laid back down I was just hanging on and hope I could get to traffic before I started going away. It’s just such a bummer. I was telling my guys we’ll get it right someday, or I’ll get it right someday. We’ve had so many good opportunities and at some point, we’ve just got to close.”
No. 48 JIMMIE JOHNSON (-70 POINTS BACK)
Johnson will not have the opportunity to defend his 2016 title.
The seven-time champion finished the race on 39th, out of the race.
Over the No. 48 team radio, Johnson said he blew a tire on the final lap of Stage 2.
“I’m disappointed for sure,” Johnson said. “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.”
Isabel Gonzalez/The Racing Experts