Kyle Busch Wins In Phoenix To Advance In The Playoffs; Championship 4 Field Setby Hunter Thomas November 11, 2018 0 comments
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Busch captured the win in the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway on Sunday to earn his eighth victory of the season and a berth in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch started the race in sixth and led a race high of 116 laps. The win locks the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Championship 4. He will join Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. In the closing laps of Sunday’s race, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota had to hold off the hard charging Brad Keselowski.
“We just kept tuning on it and just kept working on it,” Busch said. “These guys, they never give up, they never quit on me and I never quit on them. We had to keep scrounging and figure out some other things that could help the grip in this race car. It was loose, it was tight and it was all over the place today – it was a handful, that’s for sure. There at the end it was just fast enough to hold off that 2 (Brad Keselowski) car and he was charging fast.”
Team Penske’s Keselowski held on for a second-place finish in the No. 2 Miller Lite Holiday Knitwear Ford after he was out in front of the field for 32 laps. In the end, Keselowski came up just about half a second short of capturing the win. While he won’t be competing for the series championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s very confident about his chances of winning during the Ford Championship Weekend.
“Yeah, I feel like we’ve had a chance to win three of the last four, four of the last five, and they just keep slipping through our hands,” Keselowski said. “But we’ve certainly been right there, and I would expect similar in Homestead for sure.”
Kyle Larson finished third, and Aric Almirola, who needed a win to advance to the Championship 4 finished fourth.
“I’m just really thankful for this group and these guys on the Smithfield team are awesome,” Almirola said. “This is our first year working together. You look at all the teams we’re racing and they’ve got four, five, six, seven years working together, so what we’ve accomplished in one year is a hell of a lot, but right now all I can think about is being inside of Kyle (Busch) down there in the new one and two and just not being able to get the power down to get up beside him. It’s bittersweet. It was a good day for us, but today we needed to win and we didn’t win.”
Finishing behind Almirola in fifth was his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick. Last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick won, but due to a post-race penalty, his Championship 4 lock-in was taken away. Harvick had to capture a solid finish at ISM Raceway. On Sunday, he did so, and he will now compete for his second series championship. The 2014 series champion is confident about his chances at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I think we have a chance every time we show up,” Harvick said. “Our guys are doing a great job obviously to accomplish everything we did this weekend was quite the feat without your crew chief and car chief, but Tony Gibson and Nick did a great job filling in and everybody kept their head about them and we were competitive all weekend.”
Rounding out the top-10 were Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Austin Dillon, William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr.
While several of the championship contenders had good fortune in Arizona, others didn’t.
Luckily when Joey Logano blew a tire and hit the Turn 1 wall on lap 97, he was already locked into the Championship 4 based off his win at Martinsville Speedway.
“The left-rear tire went flat,” Logano said. “I don’t really know why. It just kind of came out of nowhere. We may have run something over, I don’t know. I went down on the flat a couple laps earlier to make a pass and I don’t know if it hit a little bit hard, maybe it knocked the fender into it, who knows what happened there, but she just went out. I tried to save it. I thought I had it saved, but by the time I got it straightened back out the rest of the tires were flat because I had them flat-spotted. That’s what it is.”
Clint Bowyer’s championship hopes came to a screeching halt on lap 135, when he crashed in Turn 4.
“I guess we cut a left-rear tire down,” Bowyer said. “I don’t know if it’s a product of being able to get down on the back straightaway off the race track like that. At the end of the day it’s pretty unique. We travel all across the country running on race tracks that we race on the race track and this one we spend more time off of it. It’s fun to be able to do that, but I don’t know.”
On lap 270, contact with Denny Hamlin sent Kurt Busch sliding into Chase Elliott. Busch and Elliott needed strong finishes to advance to the Championship 4, but the accident took both of them out of the chase for the title. Elliott finished 23rd, and Busch finished 32nd.
“Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new one and two,” Busch said. “If I could have been to somebody’s outside off two, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead and I just got cleaned out. I flat out got cleaned out. I thought it was the right decision on staying out. I’m not gonna look back on it.”
Following the afternoon, Elliott said, “I mean I feel like we had an opportunity today and didn’t make the most of it. Yeah, definitely could have been worse for sure, better than my first two, but we still finished fifth in the points last year, so it would be a good goal to try to shoot for next week.”
The final race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 18. Live coverage of the Ford EcoBoost 400 will broadcast on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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