Kenseth passes Elliott late for Phoenix win, Keselowski advances to title race
13 November, 2017, 02:38 | Author: Anita Tucker
Hamlin and Chase Elliott were racing for third place in the final 50 laps, as each put the bumper to the other. Keselowski finished 16th, and while Chase Elliott finished second, Keselowski's points advantage proved enough.
"Just got one race left and everybody dreams of going out a victor", a tearful Kenseth said after climbing from his Toyota. He took over Jeff Gordon's No. 24 auto this season and put himself in position to qualify for the final four at Homestead next weekend with steady driving, racking up 20 top-10 finishes.
Kenseth passed Elliott with nine laps to go to deny Elliott his first win a chance to race for the championship. Elliott was leading at the time.
Then there's the four less-enthused drivers, the ones who missed the cut Sunday and were eliminated from championship contention: Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Keselowski, and Elliott. The field, two Toyota drivers and two Ford drivers, includes three former series champions and Truex, the most dominant driver of the season.
So the championship four is finally set now - Keselowski joins Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick - and now we have to wait just one more week to have our next NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Just a few laps later, his tire blew, Hamlin hit the wall and his race was over.
The fourth driver eliminated from the playoffs was Blaney. Elliott admitted he raced Hamlin aggressively, same as Hamlin did when he wrecked Elliott from the lead at Martinsville.
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"It's just very disappointing, and I just hate that - I just hate so bad for my team", Elliott told reporters after the race. That means Keselowski must finish ahead of Hamlin in the race results, and Keselowski finished Stage 2 in 13th. "I raced him how he raced me, and that's the way I saw it". "I got into him and he chose to retaliate".
Not long after winning the opening stage, Larson wound up in the garage, retired from the race because of an engine issue. This is the fourth straight race he did not complete, two due to engine failure and two to wrecks, dating back to Kansas. Scalding hot brake rotors from Chris Buescher's auto flew in between the SAFER barriers on the outside wall as Buescher had a mechanical failure that caused an accident. NASCAR executive Steve O'Donnell tweeted during the five-minute stoppage that the red flag was used to "avoid too many lost laps" during the cleanup.
Through Stage 1, Hamlin is on track to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway. The highest finishing driver of the four contenders will win the championship.
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