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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin survives in playoffs with ISM Raceway win, championship four set

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 10: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on November 10, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Denny Hamlin claimed his sixth win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the 18th of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing, Sunday in the Bluegreen Vacations 500, the penultimate race of the season, at ISM (formerly Phoenix International) Raceway. With the win he advances to the four-driver championship battle Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, joining JGR teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick.

“The caution was the most nervous moment,” Hamlin said. “I was counting down. I have a clock inside the car, and I was looking at the clock and thinking, 20 more minutes of laps, 10 more minutes of laps, five more minutes of laps. I knew it was inevitable. I’ve been through so much at this race track. Obviously, in 2010, and the downfall of our championship run there, to get it all back 10 years later, this is special to me.”

Hamlin became the third driver to advance to the Homestead finale with a round of eight win, joining Truex and Harvick. Busch advanced on points, finishing second to Hamlin at ISM to give Joe Gibbs Racing a one-two finish.

Ryan Blaney finished third, Kyle Larson fourth, and Harvick rounded out the top-five. Despite their top-five finishes, Blaney and Larson were eliminated from championship contention Sunday. Also eliminated were Chase Elliott and reigning series champion Joey Logano. Logano finished ninth in the race but was a lap down. Elliott was last among the 39 cars that started the race. Elliott retired from the race after a cut left-rear tire resulted in hard contact with the retaining wall on lap 166.

“It’s just a continuation of our first two weeks (of the playoff round of six), unfortunately,” Elliott said. “I hate it for our NAPA group. We had a decent NAPA Chevy today. It was really tough in traffic to catch guys and, then, pass and whatnot. But I feel like we were in a good position to run solid. I’m not sure why we had a tire go down. I think that’s what happened, at least; it seemed like it. It’s unfortunate. Like I said, these last three weeks have been pretty rough. So, hopefully, Homestead goes better, and we can get prepared good for next season and get a good notebook for next year.”

Elliott was third when he wrecked, and was among the top-five for most of the laps until that point. The other seven playoff drivers ran inside the top-10 throughout most of the race, the one exception being Logano, who dropped to as low as 12th in the running order with under 90 laps remaining. He was 11th when Hamlin put him a lap down on lap 238. Logano had led 93 laps by that point, including the collection of a stage-two win at lap 150.

“I don’t know (what happened). I have no idea,” Logano said. ”It went from a really good car to a car that couldn’t stay on the lead lap with changing tires and a half-pound of air. A lot of things don’t line up there. That doesn’t make any sense. The car shouldn’t do that, but it did, and once we put tires back on it, we got to where we could run competitive at least again, but we were so far back and I was running so hard trying to get back to the 11 (Hamlin) that we ended up using it up again. We just needed a caution at the right time, and we didn’t get it, to try to get back up there. It stinks. We did the first half of the race really well. We had a fast car. We scored a ton of stage points and to the point that we could tie the 18 (Busch), and all I had to do was finish in front of him, which was the goal, and it went bad from there. I don’t get it, but it just wasn’t our year, I guess. I don’t know what to say. You’re up there wishing that somebody gets up there and passes him, but the 18 wasn’t gonna pass him (Hamlin). He could have but wasn’t going to, obviously, to have all of their cars in, so it is what it is. We’ll move forward.”

Hamlin was up front at the end of the first stage at lap 75, even though that stage was dominated by Busch. Busch started on the pole at led the first 69 laps until pit stops during the first caution of the race that came out on lap 67 for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. All lead-lap cars except Brad Keselowski and William Byron pitted. After Keselowski and Byron restarted on the front row, Hamlin took the lead from Keselowski on lap 73.

Hamlin, though, had a poor restart at the beginning of the second stage, falling back to fifth as Logano took the lead. Hamlin quickly got back up to third but struggled to get by Elliott to take second and challenge Logano for the lead. Logano continued to run up front, ultimately leading 93 laps, before losing the lead to Hamlin on lap 177.

After Hamlin took the lead from Logano, he dominated the race, building up a half-lap lead on Busch by the time the race field began cycling through green-flat pit stops just past lap 240. Hamlin still had a sizable lead after the cycle.

The yellow flag waved for the fifth and final time on lap 303 of the 312-lap race when John Hunter Nemechek got into the wall. Hamlin maintained his lead with a two-tire stop, Blaney got up to second, also taking two tires. Busch, though, took four and restarted third. With his full new set, Busch quickly got by Blaney on the final restart with three laps remaining, but despite having only two new tires, Hamlin was able to hold off his teammate.

“I was nervous,” Hamlin said. I knew the 4 (Harvick) was going to be a big deal. My teammates, the 18 (Busch) was the closest one to us, but we got a really good push from Martin, there, on that final restart. I think he went to go three-wide, and I went to block, and I think he knew I was probably going to wreck if I didn’t win this race. We just did everything we could, did everything right, and unfortunate we had to be put in a crazy situation, there, at the end.”

Other top-10 finishers included Truex in sixth, Erik Jones in seventh, Clint Bowyer eighth, and Brad Keselowski in 10th.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway:

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Posted by on November 10, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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