INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson drove through pit road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the rear bumper dangling off the back of the No. 48 Chevrolet, already aware of the consequences when he parked the car.
His chance at ending a 27-month victory drought with a record-tying fifth Brickyard 400 win was gone. His quest for a record-breaking eighth NASCAR Cup Series season title was put on hold. And his distinction as the only driver to make the playoffs every year since they began in 2004 was history, too.
An almost flawless run Sunday afternoon by Kevin Harvick ruined any chance the Hendrick Motorsports veteran had of executing his win-to-get-in strategy, and when he hit the wall in the second turn with 55 laps to go, it was official: Johnson will enter the final 10 races of the season with no hope of celebrating a championship come November.
In a post to his Twitter account, Johnson called the turn of events "a bummer and a letdown. I promise you (my fans) we will finish this season strong and be a threat next year in 2020. I just want to thank you for all being there, for your support. Chasing eight will have to wait till next year."
Harvick took the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford to the finish line 6.118 seconds ahead of second-place Joey Logano. The 43-year-old driver's second Brickyard win came 16 years after his first.
This year might feel that long for Johnson, whose only victory so far in 2019 was in an exhibition during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway in February.
He endured two major changes in his pit box, with the first coming at the end of last season when Hendrick announced Johnson's longtime crew chief Chad Knaus would be paired with teammate William Byron. In July, Johnson's team made another change.
Yet somehow he still entered Sunday two spots and 18 points below the postseason cutline and started the third stage of the race 12 points out.
With Byron and Johnson running side by side off a restart, Johnson's back end spun, sucking him up the track and into the path of Kurt Busch. Both cars slammed hard into the wall, starting an eight-car melee that ended the streak just that fast.
"I've had 25 races coming into this where I've been worried about it," Johnson said. "I'm not stoked by the situation at all. I am impressed that we have been in 15 consecutive playoffs. I'm not sure anybody else has done that. So, our record doesn't stink. We wish we could have kept it going, but life goes on."
With Johnson out, Clint Bowyer — one of Harvick's SHR teammates — held on to the 15th spot in the 16-car field for the playoffs. Roush Fenway Racing's Ryan Newman broke a tie for the final spot with SHR's Daniel Suarez and put the No. 6 Ford in the playoffs. Suarez brushed the wall on the 12th lap and wound up falling four points short of becoming the first Mexican-born driver to qualify for the playoffs.
Harvick, meanwhile, had the best car on the 2.5-mile oval all day. He qualified for the pole position in the morning, led 118 laps in the afternoon and easily pulled away from Logano over the closing laps for his third win this season, having also reached victory lane in New Hampshire in July and in Michigan in August.
Known to sometimes celebrate a win by handing the checkered flag to his 7-year-old son Keelan, the 2014 Cup Series champ didn't want daughter Piper, who turns 2 in December, left out.
"This is awesome. I kept telling myself 'Get the baby girl a trophy,'" Harvick said. "Good weekend to come — so she doesn't know what's going on, just a lot of noise, but pretty special."
Johnson's early exit put him in good company — in all, there were six crashes and nine yellow flags for 48 laps in the 160-lap race.
Brad Keselowski, the 2018 Brickyard winner, wound up climbing out of the cockpit on his knees after his car and Erik Jones' touched, sending Keselowski's sideways into a tire barrier. Keselowski called on speedway officials to consider safety improvements to the 90-degree angle of the wall in hopes of preventing a similar result in the future.
Two-time race winner and regular-season champion Kyle Busch parked his car on pit row after blowing an engine.
The playoffs begin next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Formula One: Ferrari fired up
MONZA, Italy — Charles Leclerc ended Ferrari's nine-year wait for a Formula One victory at its home circuit as he held off the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to win the Italian Grand Prix.
The 21-year-old Monaco native won for the second straight race, having earned the first victory of his F1 career a week earlier at the Belgian GP.
Leclerc, who started from pole position, was roared on by the passionate Ferrari fans, and he let out an equally joyful cry as he crossed the line 0.8 second ahead of Bottas and 35.1 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who leads the battle for the season points championship. Ferrari had not won at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza since Fernando Alonso's 2010 victory.
Any hope Hamilton had of snatching victory slipped away with 11 laps remaining as he made a mistake at the first corner, ending up on the escape road and allowing Bottas to move into second position. With that, Hamilton gave up his pursuit of Leclerc and instead pitted for fresh tires in order to set the fastest lap and get the bonus point.
Hamilton's championship lead was trimmed by two points, but he is still 63 points ahead of Bottas with seven races remaining in the season. Hamilton is going for his third straight F1 crown and sixth overall.