Jimmie Johnson’s bid for a sixth NASCAR championship took a huge hit when he crashed late in Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Johnson appeared to have a tire problem 77 laps from the scheduled finish, and his car shot hard into the wall. The crash came just seconds after championship contender Brad Keselowski moved into the lead on the track.
Johnson started the race with a seven-point lead over Keselowski in the standings in a two-man championship battle.
The race resumed with Johnson in the garage and his Hendrick Motorsports team frantically working to make repairs to his heavily damaged Chevrolet.
The season ends next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Keselowski will be looking for the first Sprint Cup championship for both himself and team owner Roger Penske.
Johnson, who has been thinking lately about a NASCAR-record eight championships, sounded resigned after his 32nd-place finish to going for broke at Homestead.
”It’s way, way out of our control. That’s racing, and we’ll go to Homestead and do all we can down there and see how things pan out,” he said. ”Anything can happen in racing. I’m very proud of the year, I’m very proud of the effort. I hate to see it potentially end this way, but again, that’s racing. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve won a few championships and I’ve lost a lot.
”Losing isn’t any fun, but we’ll be back next weekend and next year hungrier than ever and do the best we can.”