NASCAR Phoenix: Kenseth denies Elliott, Keselowski makes final four

Matt Kenseth took his first NASCAR Cup victory of the year at Phoenix, as Brad Keselowski claimed the last spot in the 2017 playoff final four

NASCAR Phoenix: Kenseth denies Elliott, Keselowski makes final four

It was in the pits that Kenseth threw himself into contention for the win, having emerged from the pitlane first following a caution for Trevor Bayne's accident in the middle of the final stage.

Joe Gibbs Toyota driver Kenseth lost the lead to Chase Elliott with 29 laps to go, with Elliott desperate to get the win he needed to secure the final playoff berth.

But Kenseth, who does not have a drive for next year, repassed Elliott in the final 10 laps to secure his 39th Cup career win.

Elliott had to settle for second, missing out on the fight for the title despite a battling drive throughout the day that included a brush with Denny Hamlin two weeks on from their collision at Martinsville in which Elliott was punted out of the lead.

This time Elliott nudged Hamlin's JGR Toyota against the wall to grab third place.

Hamlin - who had won stage two having largely dominated the first half of the race - suffered a cut tyre from the scrape, which forced him into the wall a lap later and ended his chances of making the final title battle.

As a result of Hamlin's retirement, Keselowski made the cut for the final four on points despite a very quiet race. Keselowski will join Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in fighting for the title at the Homestead season finale.

Truex finished third, crossing the line just a tenth of a second behind Elliott, with Furniture Row Racing team-mate Erik Jones fractionally behind in fourth.

Last weekend's Texas winner Harvick was fifth, ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray, as Kyle Busch finished seventh having pitted under the final caution for Hamlin's accident.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr secured eighth ahead of fellow Ford runner Aric Almirola, whose switch to Stewart-Haas Racing was announced this week.

Kyle Larson had won the first stage, snatching the lead with five laps to spare before the race went to caution.

Larson then pitted part-way through the second stage with a suspected engine issue, subsequently resulting in his fourth retirement in a row.

Keselowski only finished 16th ahead of polesitter Ryan Blaney, who fell back in the early stages of the race and failed to recover with an ill-handling Ford.

Jimmie Johnson's hopes of retaining the NASCAR Cup title ended after suffering a blown tyre, which put the seven-time champion into the wall moments before the end of the second stage.

The race was briefly red-flagged with 58 laps to go due a bizarre incident. Chris Buescher hit the wall with brake failure and the barrier subsequently caught fire, forcing a brief stoppage for repairs.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Laps Gap
1 Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 312 2h57m23.s
2 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 312 1.207s
3 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Toyota 312 1.358s
4 Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing Toyota 312 1.435s
5 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 312 1.750s
6 Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 312 3.904s
7 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 312 4.428s
8 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 312 4.730s
9 Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports Ford 312 5.166s
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 312 7.267s
11 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 312 9.759s
12 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 312 11.119s
13 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 312 12.799s
14 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 312 13.330s
15 Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 312 14.872s
16 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 312 17.379s
17 Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing Ford 312 17.865s
18 Daniel Suarez Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 312 18.212s
19 Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 311 1 Lap
20 Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 311 1 Lap
21 Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 310 2 Laps
22 Michael McDowell Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet 309 3 Laps
23 A.J. Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 309 3 Laps
24 Landon Cassill Front Row Motorsports Ford 309 3 Laps
25 Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 309 3 Laps
26 D.J. Kennington Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 307 5 Laps
27 Matt DiBenedetto Go FAS Racing Ford 306 6 Laps
28 David Starr MBM Motorsports Toyota 305 7 Laps
29 Jeffrey Earnhardt Circle Sport / TMG Chevrolet 305 7 Laps
30 Joey Gase Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet 304 8 Laps
31 Corey LaJoie BK Racing Toyota 303 9 Laps
32 Derrike Cope StarCom Racing Chevrolet 302 10 Laps
33 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 301 11 Laps
34 Kyle Weatherman Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 294 18 Laps
35 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 275 Accident
36 Cole Whitt TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet 258 Accident
37 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 247 Accident
38 Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing Ford 226 Accident
39 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 148 Accident
40 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 104 Engine

Playoff standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 5000
2 Kyle Busch 5000
3 Brad Keselowski 5000
4 Kevin Harvick 5000


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