AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is locked into NASCAR’s Championship 4 after winning Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix.
“I can’t believe it,” said Hamlin after the race. “This race team worked so hard this whole year. They deserve to be there. One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that. Fast car.”
Hamlin entered the race as one of six drivers fighting for two spots in the season-ending Championship race next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch earned the final spot with a runner-up finish on Sunday. Busch’s finish gave him enough points to get in, leaving defending series Champion Joey Logano out of the title fight. Logano finished ninth on Sunday.
“Just didn’t quite have enough,” said Busch. “I knew the 11 was the best car in practice. I knew we were going to be about third to fifth. We were second. Guys did a great job, this M&M Camry was good. Thanks to everybody at JGR, Stanley, Toyota, TRD. It’s cool to have a chance to go race for a championship. Just keep coming up short.”
“I went from a car that could lead and win a stage and run really well, and from what they told me, it was an air pressure adjustment made it go from a winning car to can’t stay on the lead lap, and one of the tightest things I’ve ever driven,” said a frustrated Logano. “I don’t really understand it. It doesn’t make any sense. You change tires and change a half pint of air, that sounds ridiculous. It is what it is. Just wasn’t our year to make it, I guess.”
Also missing the cut were Logano’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, who finished third, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who finished fourth. Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott also didn’t make the cut after another disastrous race. Elliott wrecked for the second consecutive weekend, ending his title hopes.
Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the other two Championship 4 drivers based on their wins at Martinsville and Texas, respectively.