AVONDALE, Ariz. — Jimmie Johnson is doing his best to play spoiler now that his championship chances are done.
The six-time NASCAR champion was eliminated from the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship in the first round of the playoffs. But his win last week at Texas denied Brad Keselowski a spot in the finale, and now he's on the pole for the final elimination race.
Johnson turned a lap at 143.158 mph in qualifying Friday to win the pole at Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500. His effort kept Kurt Busch, who is still in the Chase, from the top starting spot.
There are seven drivers vying for three spots in the title-deciding finale, Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only Jeff Gordon, thanks to his win at Martinsville, has clinched a berth in the final four.
"There's nothing better," Johnson said. "If you can't be in it, you may as well go out there and spoil it."
Johnson has five wins this season, but a mechanical failure in the first elimination race of the Chase bounced him from the playoffs.
Busch likely needs to win Sunday to advance to the final four.
"The car has speed," Busch said. "We've got to stay focused on getting this (No.) 41 car punching its ticket down to Homestead."
Formula One: Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, said series officials can't look to the state capital for a bailout of the financially struggling U.S. Grand Prix. Adler said the state should stand by any agreement with track officials, who say the deal includes a promise of at least $25 million a year for 10 years to pay F1 for the right to hold the race.
IndyCar: Jay Frye was named president of competition and operations. The NASCAR veteran and revenue expert succeeds Derrick Walker.
NHRA: Funny Car championship long-shot Tommy Johnson Jr. topped qualifying at the season-ending Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif. Billy Torrence led in Top Fuel, Shane Gray in Pro Stock, and Karen Stoffer in Pro Stock Motorcycle.