Six-time champion falls short of advancement despite leading 84 laps RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Jimmie Johnson knew he was a long shot coming into Talladega Superspeedway , but after leading for a race-high 84 laps, it looked like the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion could be able to pull off something extraordinary to stay on the path to his seventh title. He found himself behind Brad Keselowski late in the race, and had to make a quick decision on how to propel himself to the front. "I had such a strong car, I had a chance," Johnson said. "I was sitting in the second row outside, and I was just left with the decision to help the (No.) 2 and see if I could find a way by or try to make quick work of the 2 and go on, and I chose to try to make quick work of the 2, and as I got to his outside and pulled up alongside of him I looked up in the mirror and there was nobody back there helping. So I knew at that moment I was in trouble." That decision led to a 24th-place finish for Johnson, leaving him 11th in the standings and eliminating him from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. And with six titles to his name, Johnson knows what it takes to earn one -- and he didn't think his team had it. "I showed up this weekend thinking I was playing with house money and kind of a very unique opportunity to advance," Johnson said. "In any Chase, after two bad races like we had in the last two weeks you wouldn't have a shot at the championship." After qualifying on the front row in a new format that left many drivers baffled, Johnson's No. 48 looked to be the car to beat. The often-unpredictable Talladega, however, is among Johnson's worst tracks. He only has worse average finishes at Richmond and Daytona. He showed he planned to be aggressive early, knowing that he needed a win to move on. He found himself battling against Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who led a second-best 31 laps. Along with Johnson, Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne would all leave Alabama out of title contention. "It's just Talladega," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "We have been up front all day and I don't know where we are going to end up. You just can't avoid it down here when you are running that close together. It's just what you have to get used to and accept it and move on. It's not easy." Johnson, on the other hand, found Sunday's race easier than what his team has faced in the past two weeks. After being involved in a wreck in the opening race of the Contender Round at Kansas Speedway , the No. 48 team headed to Charlotte in 12th, 44 points back from points leader Joey Logano . Battling an ill-handling car that could only get Johnson to a 17th-place finish at Charlotte, Johnson fell 57 points out of the lead. "Today I went down swinging, and I'll take pride in that," Johnson said. "Am I disappointed in our Chase? Absolutely. In the last two weeks, people tuned in on the radio and there's been plenty of articles written this week. Frustration was high. Frustration's been high between Chad and I and the fact that we haven't been able to produce like we wanted to. Today we went down swinging, we had a chance. We came up short, and we have to make the best of 2015." The No. 48 team still has a chance to end the season in the top five in points, a finish Johnson is determined to get. His worst finish so far during his full-time Sprint Cup Series career is sixth. "We still have a chance to finish fifth in points, which would mean the world to me, " he said. "The worst I've ever finished is sixth in points, so it's not time to put our feet up, we need to finish strong and try to be in the top five." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Two-time champion to run his 890th career race and 61st at Talladega RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- In 1979, Terry Labonte climbed into a car to compete at Talladega Superspeedway in NASCAR's premier series for the first time. Sixty starts later, he'll be doing it for the last time Sunday, tying the record for most career starts at the 2.66-mile track at the same time as he ends a storied career. After 37 seasons of racing, Labonte is retiring -- and this time, he says, it's for good. Labonte first announced his retirement during his last full-time season as a driver in 2004, but it didn't take much for the veteran driver to heed the call to return to the track. "The first time, I guess, it was about halfway through the next year and Rick Hendrick called me, and Michael and Darrell (Waltrip) had asked him if he'd give me a call and see if I'd go run Michael's car," Labonte said. "So I ran a few races in that car and then I thought, 'You know, that was kind of fun, just running a few races here and there.' " The two-time premier series champion, who topped the circuit in both the 1984 and 1996 seasons, has been a constant in the sport across changes in safety, race car technology and rules, as well as a generational change of competitors. Among the 12 remaining drivers in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, six had not yet been born when Labonte began his premier series career: Joey Logano , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski . Despite his age difference compared to many of today's top contenders, Labonte said he still would want to compete in this year's new elimination-format Chase, but he also enjoys watching the added pressure and excitement of the playoffs. There is, however, one thing that makes Labonte happy he missed the current format: Winning the title hangs on a track he's not so strong at. Of all the tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, his worst average finish is at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 26.1. "The only thing I don't secretly care about is, I think they should take the last race and move it around to different tracks, kind of like the Super Bowl does," Labonte said. "So I think it would be really cool, because when you've got three or four guys that are really good at that track, and I'm never very good at that track, I would not look forward to that last event going up there against some of the guys that are very good up there." Labonte also addressed rumors that circulated concerning a life in public office, something his brother and nephew took advantage of, making yard signs and posters for Labonte's "campaign." "I'm like 90 percent of the people in here -- I'm way too overqualified for that," Labonte joked in the media center. "I had no idea how that started or where it came from." The Corpus Christi, Texas, native plans to be around the garage every so often, but as a member of his marketing company, SSG/Brandintense. The North Carolina-based firm works to bring marketing to live events for a face-to-face interaction between a company and its customers. In February, Labonte was added to the list of names under consideration on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015 ballot. With 22 wins and 361 top-10s in now 890 starts -- not to mention two championships -- his career features a long list of accomplishments. His favorite memory of that career, however, has less to do with himself than his supporters. "It was actually the first time, I think, I ever noticed the crowd. I was passing Dale Jarrett," he said, recalling a 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway . "We had been running really good all day and they had just beat us on the pit stop, and I ran him down and passed him with less than 10 laps to go, and I saw the whole place stand up. And I had never seen the crowd, actually noticed the crowd stand up at the track, and I thought to myself, 'Oh, man, I better not screw this up, 'cause I think there's 200,000 people there pulling for me, and they're gonna be mad if I don't win this thing.' " MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Rick Hendrick accepts the 2013 Car Owner award from Las Vegas.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Rick Hendrick
With Johnson, Hendrick mirrors Earnhardt-Childress production
Rick Hendrick gives an update on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s progress as he recovers from concussions suffered a couple weeks ago.
Virginia native and HMS owner Rick Hendrick reflects on his racing legacy at Martinsville Speedway.
Rick Hendrick says Jimmie Johnson was in the same position last season and the Chase will not be over until the last lap at Homestead.
Rick Hendrick explains Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson's championship motivation, racing luck, and what it takes to win the Sprint Cup Series championship.
After a late-race wreck and green-white-checkered finish, Jimmie Johnson gets his first win of 2012 and the 200th win for Rick Hendrick .