Comments from the four eliminated drivers
All photos by NASCAR via Getty Images
Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer were eliminated from the Chase Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway marked the conclusion of the Challenger Round, eliminating four drivers from championship contention.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray (-0 points back)
McMurray fell short of making the next round of the Chase, losing a points tiebreaker to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It was a great move Dale Junior made on the outside,” said McMurray, whom was passed by Junior in the closing laps of the race. “I was waving at Matt (Kenseth), hoping that he would let me in and I didn’t really think the outside was the place to be. He just did a really good job and got a great run on me.
“…We were driving so hard those last few laps, and it seemed like our car was better taking off on sticker (tires). His was a little better on the scuffs.”
McMurray finished fourth, the highest position of the drivers eliminated. The run was his first top-ten finish in 14 races.
“I’m thrilled with our performance today,” he said. “It’s frustrating that we weren’t able to make it to the next round… just needed one more point.”
McMurray talked about what can happen if the team can continue to finish inside the top-ten.
“Running fourth today is really good for the overall points. Right now, you totally focus on trying to finish fifth in points. If we have a car like this every week, we realistically can get there.”
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (-12 points back)
Jimmie Johnson started fifth in his 500th career start, the highest starting position of the drivers eliminated.
While running on the lead lap, Johnson came to pit road on lap 104, only to head to the garage area one lap later with a mechanical issue. He returned to the track on lap 140, 37 laps down.
“Listening to the guys on the radio, it sounds like maybe an axle seal; something very inexpensive and simple, but that’s racing,” Johnson said post-race.
Johnson finished 41st, 36 laps down.
“I’ve lost championships this way; I’ve won championships this way, with others having this issue,” he said. “It’s not the way we want to end the season, it’s unfortunate it’s turned out this way, but that’s racing, not that much we can do about it.
“…If you look at the old Chase format, a bad finish like this would probably take you out of winning a championship anyway, so with this format, the Chase format in general, different variations of it, you’ve got to be on for all ten races.”
No. 27 Paul Menard (-23 points back)
Menard entered the day one point back of the Chase cutoff. Starting 14th, he ran as high as tenth place.
Menard eventually finished 25th, three laps down.
“Today was not a good day for us at Dover,” he said. “We fought handling all day and found out there was a mechanical issue there near the end. We gave it our all and I'm proud that we got here. Hate that we don't get to compete further into the Chase, but we will work for a win and to advance our spot from where we are.”
No. 15 Clint Bowyer (-50 points back)
Bowyer entered Dover 39 points behind the Chase cutoff. He started Sunday’s race 16th, the lowest starting position among the drivers eliminated.
Bowyer ran as high as seventh, but his 14th place finish was not enough to advance to the next round of the Chase.
“We got two laps down, but were able to make those up,” Bowyer said. “No one had anything for that 4 car though.
“Real proud of everyone at MWR for all their hard work to get us in the Chase,” he said. “Just sorry we aren’t able to go to the next round.”