Austin Dillon and the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones joined seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson as the four drivers eliminated from the 2018 NASCAR playoffs after Sunday’s Bank of America 400.
Dillon had multiple brushes with the wall — once while trying to avoid the damaged car of Chris Buescher, bending the wheel — before being knocked out of the race for good on lap 64 after hard impact cut a tire and damaged the No. 3 Richard Childress Chevy.
“This is a crazy race,” said Dillon, who finished 26 points behind the cutoff line.
“I was having a good run and the No. 37 [Chris Buescher], I went through [Turns] 3 and 4 and I knew I didn’t even make a mistake and I didn’t think that was how I was going to make a mistake. He flicked the wheel right in the middle of the corner, and when he did, I checked and smacked the outside wall and just couldn’t save it, there. And we fixed it.
“And I came back up through there and jumped the curb and I think that’s what cut my tire down going into [Turns] 3 and 4. I should have just been more patient and waited for more attrition to go out. But I actually felt pretty comfortable and running good. It’s just hard to hold back in a treacherous race; and I guess I didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Hamlin, who started from the rear after going to a backup car, was forced to pit on lap six with a tire issue, followed by an issue with a hood. Despite surviving a hair-raising moment three-wide moment in Turn 1 on Lap 62 — when AJ Allmendinger almost sent him sideways — Hamlin’s 12th-place finish wasn’t enough to make the cut.
Jones started 12th but was eliminated from title contention after stage two, and suffered a flat tire when he made contact with teammate Daniel Suarez on lap 71. He wound up 30th.
“It was a good year, but we just didn’t have a good first round,” Jones said. “We didn’t finish in the top 10 in any races and that’s not going to get you to the next round. Some circumstances we couldn’t help, but we just need to get it better.”
Johnson, who went for broke in the final chicane by trying to pass Martin Truex Jr. for the lead, lost a three-way tie for the 12th to Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson.