When the No. 20 of Matt Kenseth left a wall of smoke in the first turn of Phoenix International Raceway, it was a now-or-never moment for Joey Logano.
Sitting in a tie with Kyle Busch for the final position in the Championship 4, Logano took advantage of a late crash to grab the victory in the Can-Am 500.
Standing as his third win of 2016, Logano earned his first Phoenix win and punches his ticket to the Championship 4 next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Man, this feels so good,” Logano said. “I’ve never felt this good about a win before. There was so much on the line. This team did it. It feels so good. I had a good restart at the end to hold off Kyle [Busch] to get this thing into Miami. We’re racing for a championship now! I’m speechless, I feel like I just won the Daytona 500 again.”
Kyle Busch , who indirectly caused the late spin by race leader Matt Kenseth, came home second – a result good enough to join Logano in the Final 4.
Despite the hard-earned position, Busch was heartbroken for Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kenseth, who came home 21st.
“Really unfortunate and devastating to have the race come down to the end like that,” Busch said. “I got a little bit better restart than the No. 88. It carried onto the No. 20 and essentially, I guess I wrecked a teammate. Man, that’s just so frustrating. I feel horrible about it.”
With more than three seconds to spare, Sunday was looking like a Kenseth kind of day with two laps to go in the scheduled 312-lap distance.
That all blew apart – literally – down the backstretch when Michael McDowell cut a tire and crashed into Turn 3. Within minutes, Kenseth’s championship hopes got turned into the Turn 1 wall on the first Overtime attempt after an apparent spotter issue when the No. 88 of Alex Bowman held the inside line.
“It’s more than disappointing,” Kenseth said. “The No. 88 was laying way, way back for that restart – more than a car width. Shortly thereafter, Chris [Osborne, spotter] cleared me. I really don’t know what happened, I was just goign off the information I had.”
Bowman, who led a race-high 194 laps from pole said the contact was unintentional, yet, admitted there would have been contact made for the win due to his uncertain future in the Sprint Cup Series.
Completing the top 5, Kyle Larson overcame a first-lap spin to rally to third followed by the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch – the two who needed to win to advance to Homestead.
“All in all, it was a great effort by our No. 4 team,” Harvick said. ” We were off all weekend. They made great adjustments t oat least get us in the ball park. That’s all you can ask, go down swinging.”
Joining the SHR guys on the outside of the Final 4 is Denny Hamlin, who finished seventh in what was only a decent day for the No. 11 Toyota.
“When I saw that we were the only ones to stay out, I knew we had an uphill climb,” Hamlin said. “I still thought we were OK, but we had that second caution, that put me on the bottom and I just got shuffled from there.”
Jimmie Johnson was another driver who got shuffled throughout the race. Leading the race for 13 laps early, Johnson received a penalty for passing the pace car while entering pit road under caution. Johnson was highly frustrated following the penalty and was later caught up in a crash with Austin Dillon to end his day in the 38th spot.
“I’m scratching my head big time on that,” Johnson said. “This is the first time it happened.”
Completing the top 10 is Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard. Kasey Kahne, who ran top 5 throughout the afternoon for Hendrick Motorsports, fell to 13th.
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