Joey Logano will leave Phoenix International Raceway victorious in the No. 22 Shell/Penzoil Ford for Team Penske. Logano had some work to do in the final laps of the race if he wanted to take his team to victory lane and into the final round of the Chase. The race, scheduled for only 312 laps, went into two overtime finishes due to two late race cautions.
"A lot. This feels so good. I've never felt this good about a win before,” Logano said in victory lane after the race on NBCSN. “There was so much on the line and everyone brings their A-game when it comes to winning championships and this team did it.”
The first caution came out on lap 310 for Michael McDowell over in turn three. The next one is the one that came into play for Logano on lap 316. That’s when second-place Alex Bowman and race leader Matt Kenseth made contact on the restart that sent Kenseth into the wall with heavy damage in turn one. NASCAR determined that Logano would restart as the race leader.
The lap 316 crash would end Matt Kenseth’s hopes for a championship as he finished 21st. Kenseth came into the weekend practically needing a win to advance.
Logano would be long gone when the race went back green. After racing two clean laps, Logano would punch his ticket into the ‘Championship 4’ in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.
“Man, this feels so good,” Logano continued. “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. Roush Yates Engines bringing the heat again. Ford, AutoZone, AutoTrader, Coca-Cola, SKF, everybody that helps us out. I'm speechless right now. I feel like I just won the Daytona 500 again."
Alex Bowman, who started on the pole for the first time of his Sprint Cup Series career, dominated the Can-Am 500 all afternoon long. Bowman led three different times for a total of 194 laps. The driver subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. will leave with a sixth-place finish.
“It was a really fun day. Greg (Ives, crew chief) and all the guys made great changes all day,” Bowman said after the race. “We had the best car all day long. Really disappointed. I hate that we got into Matt (Kenseth) like that. Just really disappointing end to the day, but one of those deals. Just a racing deal. I don’t know if his spotter cleared him or what, but I was up against the inside wall when we made contact. It says a lot about Hendrick Motorsports and Greg Ives and the whole Nationwide Chevy team. We were so strong all day, fastest car, but the fastest car didn’t win the race this weekend.”
Bowman holds one top five and four top 10 finishes since making his Sprint Cup debut in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in 2014. The finish and performance today afternoon gives him a case this offseason as he searches for a ride.
Kyle Busch will leave with a second-place finish in his No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, will get into the ‘Championship 4’ by claiming the last available spot via points. The other available spots, held by Logano, Edwards and Johnson, were all earned by victories in the ‘Round of 8’.
“It’s really unfortunate and devastating to have the race come down like that,” said Busch after the race. “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. I was really hoping I could get a good restart and force the 88 off the bottom and have him kind of block the 22 (Joey Logano) and I could have a position in between me and the 22 and myself and both the 20 and myself would transfer on into the final round.”
Kyle Larson rounded out the top three in the Can-Am 500. Larson started the afternoon in second and was quiet all throughout the race. The young driver will walk away with his ninth top five finish of the season. He’ll go into next weekend’s finale still searching for that first career win.
With Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch advancing, that means four other drivers will not race for the championship next weekend. Joining Kenseth to not advance will be Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. Next weekend will mark the first elimination Chase without 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick in the final four.
Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 team had issues all weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. After contacting the wall in practice, the team decided that they would move over to their backup car. Later that day, during pre-qualifying inspection, the team would have an issue getting through LIS and would not post a time in round one of qualifying. That would place the team in the 40th starting spot for Sunday’s race.
Truex would quickly make gains before given a penalty on lap 85 for pulling up to pit as the caution came out while Truex pitted. The penalty would cost them one lap after already losing another lap to the race leader. They would not be able to rebound and would find themselves involved in a caution with Ryan Newman on lap 255. He would not finish due to an accident and will leave Phoenix with a 40th-place finish.
The Sprint Cup Series will head to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend for the season finale. Coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. on NBC. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Channel 90 will have the live radio broadcast.