Phoenix Race Report
It was a strong day for Joe Gibbs Racing with all three teams competing for a spot in the top five in the final laps of today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. When it was over Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch would survive a wild ending to finish second and third respectively, while Joey Logano was not as fortunate as he got caught up in a big accident with just two laps remaining and had to settle for a 27th-place finish.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota third and was strong from the outset as he settled into the second position behind his teammate Busch through the early going. Hamlin would take his first lead of the day during a long green flag run when he was able to finally get around his teammate for the top spot with just under 200 laps to go. The No. 11 Camry would become tight in the turns as the race progressed and with 100 laps remaining Hamlin would be racing in the fifth position. A tremendous stop by the FedEx pit crew on lap 237 would gain Hamlin three spots and allow him to restart alongside his teammate Busch on lap 241. Hamlin, who led a total of 46 laps on the day, would race hard with current Series point leader Brad Keselowski, but managed to eventually pull away and settle into second until a caution on lap 272. Crew chief Darian Grubb would make the call to remain out on the track to hold the second spot for a restart on lap 277. Another caution just a few laps later would see Hamlin restart third on lap 284. Hamlin would be racing fourth when a big wreck on the track brought out a red flag stop and created a green white checker finish. He would manage to steer clear of yet another final wreck as they approached the checkered flag and finished the day in second.
Busch was the fastest car throughout the weekend leading practices and then earning the top starting position with the fastest qualifying lap on Friday afternoon in his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota. Busch would dominate the early going and led 170 laps before the car moved to tight conditions into the turn. Like they have done all year, the M&Ms pit crew was outstanding while pitting on lap 237 to give Busch the lead back for a restart on lap 241. Busch would grab the top spot and build a big lead before a caution on lap 272 brought the field back together. Crew chief Dave Rogers would make the call to remain out on the track and keep the top spot for the restart on lap 277. He would hold the lead again on the restart before another caution would force him to do it all over gain on lap 284. He would manage to hold the lead until a restart with just nine laps to go when the 29 car managed to get around Busch on a restart. A big wreck on the track with two laps to go would bring out a red flag for track clean up and set up a green white checker finish. Busch would race hard to the finish and managed to keep the car out of one final wreck as he took the checkered flag in third. He led a race-high 237 laps.
Logano started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota 15th and battled mostly tight conditions throughout the race as he battled for a spot in the top ten. Track position would prove hard to come by especially with several long green flag runs during the race. Logano still managed to get his Dollar General Camry through traffic and was racing 11th with 100 laps remaining. Logano would remain 11th for a restart on lap 241 and managed to drive his way into the top ten and was driving ninth with 50 laps remaining. Logano would remain out on the track following a caution on lap 272 and restarted seventh on lap 277. He would hold that spot through another restart on lap 284. He would be racing sixth with just two laps to go when the 24 and 15 cars got together and in the process took Logano out of the race. It was an unfortunate finish to an otherwise strong performance by Logano, who had also dominated the Nationwide Race en route to victory just one day prior. He would be scored in 27th position.
Kevin Harvick got the win, followed by Hamlin and Busch, while Kasey Kahne was fourth, and Ryan Newman was fifth. There were eight cautions for a total of 38 laps with 17 lead changes among 11 different drivers.
The final race of the season will be in Homestead next Sunday with ESPN providing live coverage starting at 2 PM ET (race begins at 3 PM ET). Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90 and MRN Radio will also provide live coverage. Brad Keselowski enters the season finale with a 20-point lead over Jimmie Johnson. Denny Hamlin gained two spots and is now fifth in points entering the final race.
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