Joey Logano Joins Championship 4 With Phoenix Win; Kyle Busch Advances With Runner-Up Finishby Hunter Thomas November 13, 2016 0 comments
AVONDALE, Ariz. – In a wild NASCAR Overtime finish on Sunday, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch raced their way into the Championship 4 after claiming the top-two spots in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Heading into this weekend’s race in Phoenix, the only drivers who knew they were going to compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway were Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. As for the other six drivers remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, they’d have to race their way in on Sunday.
Matt Kenseth was about to seal the deal and race his way into the Chase, but with just two laps to go, Michael McDowell brought out the caution after blowing a tire and crashing in Turn 3. With the entire season on the line, the field restarted, and it was Kenseth hard into the outside wall in Turn 1 after contact with Alex Bowman. When the field dove into Turn 1, Kyle Busch got into the back of Bowman, sending him deeper into the first corner and into Kenseth.
After the race, Busch said, “I got a little bit better restart than the 88 (Alex Bowman) did and I felt like I had a run on him and had enough that I got to the inside and if he chopped me he was going to get wrecked and that’s what happened, but it carried on into the 20 (Matt Kenseth) and essentially I guess I wrecked a teammate. It’s so frustrating and aggravating and I feel horrible about it. It’s a shame to see it come down like that.”
At the time of entry into Turn 1, Kenseth’s spotter, Chris Osborne cleared Kenseth to move to the bottom, but with Bowman having the extra speed from the contact with Busch, the door closed very quickly. As a result, Kenseth went from possibly winning and advancing, to finishing 21st and losing out on the 2016 championship.
Kenseth said, “I don’t know, the 88 was laying way, way back for that restart, more than a car would so I got going early on purpose and I looked at him at the start-finish line and I thought we were doing okay and I looked back and it looked like he had a little run on me, maybe not and shortly thereafter Chris cleared me so with the glare I started looking to the corner to approach the corner and I got turned out of the way. He hollered ‘inside’ at the same time I got turned towards the fence so I really don’t know what happened. I was just going off the information I had to try to get the best corner I could and lead more laps.”
Following the race, Alex Bowman, who piloted the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS to a sixth place finish said, “Restarts with three to go at the Cup level. I mean, that’s what happens. We’re all here to win races and doing everything we can to win races. I don’t think Kyle wrecked Matt. I don’t think I wrecked Matt. I think the situation, it just all ‑‑ it all happened like that. It’s unfortunate. But I don’t think you can really place the blame on one person. It just sucks for Matt.
“I don’t know Matt. He’s probably really mad at me right now I’d imagine, but hopefully we can move past it and race clean at Homestead.”
On the final restart of the day, Kyle Busch lined up on the inside with Joey Logano on his outside. Logano was able to clear Busch as they entered Turn 1, and the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion never looked back to earn his third win of the season and his 17th career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“This feels so good,” said Logano in Victory Lane. “I’ve never felt this good about a win before. There was so much on the line and everyone brings their A-game when it comes to winning championships and this team did it. Man, this feels so good. I had a good restart there at the end and holding off Kyle to try to get this thing into Miami. We’re racing for a championship now. We did exactly what we had to do. We’ve got to go to Homestead and do the same thing. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Kyle Busch had to hold off Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick, who was also trying to race his way into the Chase. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry was able to do so and hold on for a solid runner-up finish. Busch will now head to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend trying to defend the series championship. Last year, Busch won the season finale to earn his first series title.
“We haven’t showed our strength here in a few weeks, but we’ve showed consistency,” Busch said. “I’m hoping that this consistency is what shows our strength next week. We always talk about in this sport how top-10s lead to top-fives and top-fives lead to wins. Eventually we’re going to keep finishing in the top-five and we just had three top-fives in a row. It could be more than that, that’s what it was in this round – a fifth, a fifth and a second was as sporty as we could do and we move on. Hopefully Homestead is a little better.”
Joey Logano and Kyle Busch will now join Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in the Championship 4. The drivers, who were eliminated from the Chase on Sunday were Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
As for Sunday’s finishing order, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 was Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard.
Throughout the Can-Am 500, there were eight lead changes among five drivers. Bowman led a race high of 194 laps. Logano led the second most after being out in front of the field for 58 laps. The race also saw nine cautions for 53 laps.
The final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the 2016 season will be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 20. The Ford EcoBoost 400 will broadcast live on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images