· Jimmie Johnson heads to Homestead as part of the Championship Four with chance to capture record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title
· Chevrolet has chance at driver’s title in each of NASCAR’s top three national series at Homestead
· Chase contenders Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch come up just short in their bid for championship spots in final race

PHOENIX (November 13, 2016) – NASCAR’s penultimate race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) to determine its 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship four drivers delivered the drama, intensity, and sparks that were expected. The Can-Am 500, as well as the final two positions for the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, was determined in overtime following a number of aggressive restarts and cautions in the waning laps.

Kyle Larson, No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS, was the highest finishing Chevrolet SS driver out of six that made up the top 10 at PIR. His third-place finish was his ninth top-five finish of 2016.

Chevrolet Chase contenders Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, and Kurt Busch, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and fifth respectively. Both drivers came into the Can-Am 500 at PIR in a must-win situation and struggled with their cars’ handling for most of the 312-lap contest. However, late in the race both drivers had opportunities to take over the top spot on a few of the restarts that played out over the finish, but were never able to get a stronghold on the top spot. The Stewart-Haas Racing pair had their chances at another championship title thwarted when the checkered flag fell in the valley of the Avondale desert.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman, subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., dominated the day in his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS. The 23-year old Arizona native earned his first career pole on Friday at PIR and looked to be a strong contender as he led the event on three separate occasions for a race-high 194 laps. On the second to last restart of the afternoon Bowman was involved in an on-track incident, but was able to salvage a sixth-place finish, the best of the nine races he has competed in this season while serving as interim driver of the No. 88 Chevy. Chase Elliott, No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet SS, ended the day in the ninth position and Paul Menard, No. 27 Rust-oleum/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished 10th to round out the rounding out the Chevrolet power in the top 10.

Joey Logano (Ford) was the race winner and Kyle Busch (Toyota) was second to round out the top-five finishers. Logano, Busch, Carl Edwards (Toyota) and Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet) will be the Championship Four that battle for this season’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the season’s final race. The Ford 400 is set for Sunday, November 20.



THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the driver of the No. 88, Alex Bowman. Can you talk about your race today?

ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, we definitely had the best car here all day, especially on long runs. We were really strong. Hendrick Motorsports did a great job. Great guys made great calls from the top of the box all day. I’ve got to thank everybody from Nationwide, Axalta, and Mountain Dew. We had a great car. We took four there and restarted on the bottom twice. Our car didn’t really take off on restarts all day long very well, so had to make our way back up through there, and we got to second at the end and had that caution come out, and didn’t get a terrible restart, and the 18 turned me sideways getting into the corner, and I ‑‑ I don’t know, it almost feels like ‑‑ I almost feel like the 20 thought he was clear because I was against the ‑‑ I wasn’t at the best angle but I was also against the inside wall when we made contact. I guess he said something on the radio that he thought he was clear.

I hate it for Matt. You take somebody out like that. I would have raced the hell out of him for the win, but definitely don’t want to do that.

Hate that, and it ruined our day, too. So it’s unfortunate.

But really enjoyable day to run up front and lead 200 laps or however many we led. I don’t think I’ve really led Cup laps before, so it was a lot of fun, just not the way we wanted to end it.

Q. Alex, Kyle Busch commented that while he was getting going, he got into you a little bit and he feels like he wrecked a teammate, that being Matt Kenseth. What’s your perspective on that?

ALEX BOWMAN: Restarts with three to go at the Cup level. I mean, that’s what happens. We’re all here to win races and doing everything we can to win races. I don’t think Kyle wrecked Matt. I don’t think I wrecked Matt. I think the situation, it just all ‑‑ it all happened like that. It’s unfortunate. But I don’t think you can really place the blame on one person. It just sucks for Matt.

I don’t know Matt. He’s probably really mad at me right now I’d imagine, but hopefully we can move past it and race clean at Homestead.

Q. Alex, what was the biggest takeaway from this race for you? With all the time you spent up front ‑‑

ALEX BOWMAN: Probably that race car just makes a hell of a difference. To come here, I think I’ve had four Cup races here, and I don’t even know if I’ve finished inside the top 30 in any of them, and then came here with Hendrick Motorsports and led almost 200 laps. There were a lot of guys in the garage that can get the job done and run up front, they just don’t get the opportunity to show it, and I’m just thankful that I was given the opportunity to show it today. Our race car was really good all day. Best car on long runs by far. It was just a lot of fun.

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Chevrolet. How does it feel to be a part of the Championship Four?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I’m just excited for the opportunity to compete for a championship. I love racing against these guys. You know each year it’s amazing to watch everybody’s talent increase, the garage get more competitive, and just how hard we all have to race one another. So I’m excited about going to Homestead and having a shot at a championship.

Q. Jimmie, when do you go talk to NASCAR to try to figure out the pulling up to pit rule because I assume that’s something you’ll want clarified before next Sunday?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think the whole field does. Rumor has it that guys have been pulling up like that all weekend to go to pit lane. In 15 years that has never been a concern, and I was always told that the last thing NASCAR wanted to do would be to penalize the leader, and as you pull off onto the apron, you accelerate to the commitment line. If you are held by the pace car, you’re at a disadvantage as the leader and it allows everybody to catch you and catch up, so even in drivers’ meetings they’ve said, we know you’re going to pass the pace car; it’s okay. The majority of the tracks we go to, you naturally just gradually pull ahead of the pace car coming to pit lane. I mean, this happens all the time.

I am still baffled, and I don’t know if I will stop being baffled, but all I can say is if they called me on it and they continue to call everybody else on it every week, then shame on me.

Q. I assume you will go talk to somebody about it?


Q. Jimmie, you’ve had the longest time to get prepared for this Chase. Has your team built a brand new car or are you going to use something you’ve already raced with this year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: In a couple weeks we didn’t have a chance to build a new car, but we’ve got some stuff in the pipeline and a couple cars to choose from. You know, yes, we have had the luxury of a few weeks of time, but a lot of these decisions are made so far in advance, which cars and getting them approved through NASCAR that the advantage doesn’t come there. I think it’s more in preparation, digging through notes, watching videos, just being prepared. I think that’s where a small advantage may come from, and we’ll see if we can take advantage of that.

Q. Does any of the four of you have an advantage or disadvantage going into this race? Is there any such thing as a favorite?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think my stats in Homestead show that I’m the favorite, right?

Q. Jimmie, when you talk to NASCAR about the pulling up to pit, I think there was an issue at Charlotte where Kenseth really seemed to gain a lot of ground on you. Is that something that’s kind of fresh in your mind, or was that just kind of looks deceptive because of what you were describing earlier when you get down low and come down pit road?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, there’s two pieces to it, the leader and his orientation to the pace car. Again, NASCAR has never wanted to put the leader at a disadvantage, so they allow you to once you pull down to accelerate to the line. If the guys behind you pull down and accelerate before the leader does, then they’re supposed to call that. So they’re two separate issues, and you know, and I guess they called the 78 on the other issue, so if they’re going to officiate this way, then I’ll keep my mouth shut from here on out, but from my position as the leader, this is the first, and I’ve been told differently multiple times and I’ve heard it in countless drivers’ meetings being described differently than the way they officiated it today.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you.