WILD FINISH GIVES LOGANO CAN-AM 500, SPOT IN NASCAR CHAMPIONSHIP 4
Joey Logano needed a good finish to advance to the championship finale of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next weekend. The semi-final race was extended by 12 laps due to two late collisions that significantly effected both the race and the championship battle. Logano got the best finish possible at Sunday's Can-Am 500, grabbing the lead on a late restart and never looking back.
This is Logano's first Sprint Cup win at Phoenix International Raceway and third overall following triumphs in the XFINITY Series races in 2012 and 2015.
"Everyone’s racing for a championship," said Logano, who led 58 laps and averaged 102.865 mph. "This isn’t just a race. This is for the championship, or at least a shot at it next week. The No. 22 car is going there, and we’ve got a hell of a shot at it and I couldn’t be more proud of this team executing under pressure. They were better today under pressure, and I couldn’t be more proud of everybody and giving me the opportunity to do what I can on that last restart.”
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota, finished second and also advanced to the Championship 4 on points. Busch and Logano join No. 48 Jimmie Johnson and No. 19 Carl Edwards, who advanced by winning the first two races of the Round of 8.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, seemed poised to clinch a spot in the next round with a win. Quick pit work and a great restart on fresh tires on lap 262 enabled him to charge past Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, with an aggressive short cut of the dogleg. He slowly pulled an advantage of more than three seconds when the yellow flag came out after Michael McDowell blew a tire with less than two laps to go in the 324-lap race. That problem bunched the field for an overtime restart.
Kenseth chose the outside lane and powered into the first turn where he attempted to cut down and in front of Tucson native Alex Bowman. But Bowman was also pushing hard and the two cars collided, sending Kenseth into the outside wall as his championship hopes vanished in a cloud of tire smoke.
"I felt like I got through the gears OK, and I checked at the start-finish line and it looked like I had a good enough run where I was going to be cleared," said Kenseth, who finished 21st. "And Chris [Osbourne, spotter] told me I was clear, so I just started approaching and setting up for Turn 1 and next thing I know, I was in the wall.”
For the second overtime attempt, Logano was the leader and he held off Busch over the last two laps to win by 0.587 seconds.
Also eliminated from the Chase were No. 11 Denny Hamlin, who finished seventh; No. 4 Kevin Harvick, who finished fourth; and No. 41 Kurt Busch, who finished fifth. Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, had won six of the last eight races at PIR, but did not lead a lap in Sunday's race.
Bowman, substitute driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet in place of injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., had the dominant car, leading 194 of 324 laps. Bowman had a chance late to take the lead, but was involved in the Kenseth wreck and finished sixth. He will run one more race in the No. 88 at Homestead, but does not have yet plans for next season.
It was a really fun day," said Bowman. "Greg [Ives, crew chief] and the guys made great changes all day and had the best car all day long. Really disappointed. I hate that we got into Matt [Kenseth] like that, just really disappointed at the end of the day. One of those deals, just a racing deal."
The race had a total of nine cautions for 53 laps. All but three were for wrecks.