Matt Kenseth wins at Phoenix; Keselowski advances to Champ 4

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Matt Kenseth wins at Phoenix; Keselowski advances to Champ 4

Postby Bryce Turner » Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:54 pm

By: Bryce Turner

Race Details: Winner: Matt Kenseth; Track: Phoenix Raceway; Laps: 312 (75,75,162); Race Name: Can-Am 500 (km)

Matt Kenseth wins, while Brad Keselowski joins the championship 4 after a dramatic finish at Phoenix.

Ryan Blaney started on the pole for today’s race. Blaney one of five drivers battling for the final spot in the championship 4. Keselowski entering with a 19 point advantage on Denny Hamlin, 22 points on Blaney, and a likely must-win situation for Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.

On lap 12, Elliott took the lead, with Hamlin in close pursuit. On lap 26, Hamlin took the spot, before Elliott took it back. Hamlin made another pass on lap 28, this time pulling away.

With 8 to go in stage one, Kyle Larson took the top spot as the leaders worked through lap traffic. Larson going on to win the stage.

Hamlin won the battle off pit road to restart out front. On lap 104, more bad luck for Larson, who was running second. Larson took his car to the garage with engine issues, his fourth straight DNF.

Hamlin continued to stay up front to win stage two. On the final lap of the stage, trouble for one of the playoff drivers. Johnson hit the wall with a flat tire. The damage sent his car to the garage, his title hopes over.

With Hamlin finishing second and first in the stages, and Keselowski outside the top-ten in both, Hamlin scored the exact number of points to erase the 19 point deficit, meaning the battle between those two drivers would come down to finishing position.

Hamlin continued to lead during a lengthy green flat run. On lap 229, caution when Trevor Bayne hit the wall hard with a flat tire.

Matt Kenseth won the race off pit road. Just three circuits after the restart, another yellow flag, this one for debris with 74 to go.

Kenseth was able to keep the lead on the restart before another caution, with 61 to go, when Chris Buescher spun into the wall with a broken brake rotor. The rotor landed in the safer barrier and caught on fire, causing a red flag delay for cleanup.

When the race restarted, the battle for the final transfer spot heated up. As some drivers pitted and others stayed out, Keselowski moved into the top-ten. With Kenseth leading, Hamlin’s points position dwindled to 5 to 6 points over Keselowski, while Elliott moved up to second in his must-win situation.

Just three circuits after the restart, yellow flag with 51 to go when Cole Whitt hit the wall with a flat tire.

With 42 to go, Elliott racing Hamlin hard in a battle for third. Elliott bumped Hamlin, and the two made contact while side-by-side, causing Hamlin to make contact with the wall. This created a tire rub, which led to a flat with 38 to go, sending Hamlin into the wall and out of the race.

Two laps after the restart, with 29 to go, Elliott passed Kenseth to take the lead. Elliott needing to win to advance, but Kenseth, who doesn’t have a ride for next season, looking for his first win of the year. With 10 to go, Kenseth took the lead. Kenseth held on to win the race, followed by Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski will battle for the championship next Sunday at Homestead-Miami. The best finisher of those four drivers will win the title.
Bryce Turner is chief NASCAR correspondent for carnuts.ca.
Bryce Turner
 
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