Kyle Busch pulls away late to win at Phoenix as Championship 4 is set
Kyle Busch pulled away from the field on the final restart with 13 laps to go and won Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. Busch advanced to the Championship 4 next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he will race against Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Busch drove away from Aric Almirola as the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford made a last-ditch effort at a playoff-advancing win. Almirola entered the day 35 points below the cutline, and he, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer were eliminated from the NASCAR Playoffs.
For Kyle Busch, it was his eighth win of the season and his second in the playoffs. It was the 51st victory for his career in NASCAR’s top series, moving him in front of Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson on the all-time list. Next up for Busch is Lee Petty, who has 54 wins.
Behind Busch on Sunday at Phoenix were Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Almirola and Harvick in the top five.
RELATED: Race results
Drama unfolded almost from the get-go at Phoenix, but a significant moment came on a restart with 46 laps to go. With Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin at the front on old tires, Hamlin slid up the track and made contact with Busch, pushing the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford into the outside wall. Busch ended up coming back down the track and collected the No. 9 of Chase Elliott.
The wreck took Kurt Busch out of the race and knocked Elliott laps down, in effect ending both drivers’ hopes at advancing to the Championship 4. Both Busch and Elliott led laps in the race and appeared to have cars that would be competitive. Elliott, in fact, won Stage 1 after Harvick sustained a flat tire with two laps to go in the stage.
Then, in Stage 2, separate wrecks by Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer ended their days. Logano moved on to the Championship 4 by virtue of his earlier win at Martinsville, but it meant the end of the playoff road for Bowyer. On the Logano wreck, Harvick was the beneficiary and got back on the lead lap.
In the final stage, Kurt Busch was penalized for passing the pace car before entering pit road. At the time, Busch was leading the race, but the ensuing penalty put him a lap down. Busch got back on the lead lap as he was the beneficiary when the caution came out on Lap 228 after the No. 97 of Tanner Berryhill spun in Turn 2.
Will there be more drama next week? The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will conclude next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The best finisher among the Championship 4 will be crowned as the Monster Energy Series champion.
This story will be updated.
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