(MRN) Matt Kenseth wins the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway, the 39th of his career. Kenseth passed Chase Elliott on lap 303 of 312 to take the lead in what may prove to be the final win of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
Elliott, who had to win in Phoenix to advance to the Championship Four round of the playoffs, pushed his way to the front by an aggressive move on Denny Hamlin reminiscent of Hamlin’s move on Elliott two weeks ago in Martinsville. Elliott came just sort of his quest, finishing second for the seventh time in his Cup career.
Hamlin had a strong car all day leading three times for a total of 193 laps and picking up nineteen stage points in his attempt to land the final playoff spot. A flat tire put the number-11 FedEx Toyota into the wall late in the race dashing their chances to advance.
Jimmie Johnson, who also needed a win to advance to the next round, suffered a blown tire just one lap short of the caution at the end of Stage Two ending his bid for an eighth championship.
Brad Keselowski, after an up and down day, was able to secure the final spot in the Championship Four on points, finishing sixteenth.
The top five finishers at Phoenix: Kenseth, Elliott, Marin Truex Junior, Erik Jones, and Kevin Harvick. The four drivers racing for the Championship in Miami are Kyle Busch, Harvick, Truex Jr., and Keselowski.
There were seven cautions for 41 laps, nine lead changes among five drivers, and one red flag stoppage for about five minutes due to a fire in turn three . The fire, ignited by hot debris, was located in the gap between the SAFER Barrier and the wall.
NASCAR CUP SERIES
Top 10 Finishers in the Can-Am 500
DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED
1. Matt Kenseth (7) 62
2. Chase Elliott (4) 34
3. Martin Truex Jr. (5) —
4. Erik Jones (R) (11) —
5. Kevin Harvick (6) —
6. Jamie McMurray (13) —
7. Kyle Busch (8) —
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (27) —
9. Aric Almirola (22) —
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (14) —
RACE NOTES …
Matt Kenseth wasn’t the only driver in the final year of his current ride who had a good day in Phoenix. Other notable drivers finishing in the top ten who will be in other places next season include: Erik Jones (moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, number-20 Toyota), Aric Almirola (moving to Stewart-Haas Racing, number-10 Ford), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (retiring, broadcasting for NBC) … Kyle Larson’s troubles on the track after his elimination from the playoffs continued Sunday. Larson had an early race engine failure, extending his string of DNF’s to four.
2017 PLAYOFFS Unofficial Standings Championship Round
1. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row) 4,212 Points
2. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) 4,159 (-53)
3. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas) 4,155 (-57)
4. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) 4,132 (-80)
Eliminated From Title Contention
5. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) 4,113 (-99)
6. Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers) 4,109 (-103)
7. Chase Elliott (Hendrick M’sports) 4,107 (-105)
8. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick) 4,062 (-150)
Inside the Playoffs
Entering Sunday’s race, three of the final Championship Four spots were already locked in. Wins at Martinsville by Kyle Busch and at Texas by Kevin Harvick solidified their spots. Martin Truex Junior’s dominance of the Stage Racing Format locked in his position by virtue of playoff points and solid runs the past two weeks, finishing second at Martinsville Speedway and at Texas Motor Speedway. That left the final spot up for grabs for Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, or Jimmie Johnson. Blaney, Hamlin, and Elliott all made it interesting, leading a one point or another in the race. Johnson blew a tire at the end of Stage Two ending his quest for an 8th title.