Kenseth takes emotional Phoenix win after dramatic battle

Kenseth takes emotional Phoenix win after dramatic battle
Lee Spencer
By: Lee Spencer
Nov 12, 2017, 10:57 PM

If this is the end for Matt Kenseth’s NASCAR career, he finished on a high note at Phoenix Raceway with his 39th-career Cup win on Sunday.

Kenseth collected his second win at Phoenix after out-dueling Chase Elliott in the closing laps pf the Can-Am 500.  He held a 1.207-second after 312 laps. 

Yeah, baby, who,” Kenseth said. “I’m going to be the biggest crybaby you’ve ever seen.”

Elliott finished second followed by Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

"I'll get it right some day," said Elliott after his fifth second-place run in 2017. "It's such a bummer to be so close again. I had a shot to run for the championship at Homestead."

Brad Keselowski, who finished 16th, became the fourth and final driver to battle among the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joins Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick.

“It feels a little bit like Christmas,” Keselowski said. “Sometimes you have to have a little luck on your side.”

Denny Hamlin’s 193 laps led were the most of the race, but the event ended for him on Lap 275 after contact with Elliott. 

Hamlin held the point off of pit road on Lap 154 and led the field to green on Lap 159. Kenseth continued in second followed by Kyle Busch, Truex, Harvick, Jones, Bowyer, McMurray, Elliott and Blaney. 

Truex passed Busch for third, Jones moved up to fifth followed by McMurray, Harvick, Blaney, Elliott, Bowyer and Keselowski. After the first 10 laps, Hamlin took off to a .636-second lead over Kenseth. Truex ran third followed by Jones, Kyle Busch, McMurray, Harvick, Blaney, Elliott, Bowyer and Keselowski.

On Lap 176, Harvick passed Kyle Busch who complained of being sideways. Harvick moved up into the top five after catching McMurray. Elliott moved up to seventh and Newman passed Keselowski for 11th on Lap 187.  

With 120 laps remaining in the race, Hamlin’s lead was .915-seconds over Kenseth. Truex, Jones, Harvick, McMurray, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Newman, Blaney, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Keselowski completed the top 15.

Two-thirds the way into the race, Hamlin held a two-second lead over Kenseth. Truex, Jones, Harvick, McMurray, Elliott, Newman, Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon, Keselowski and Earnhardt completed the top 15. 

Newman used Danica Patrick as a pick to hold off an advance from Elliott on Lap 219. 

Earnhardt reported a vibration just before his right front tire went down on the backstretch on Lap 226. He came to pit road on the next circuit. The No. 88 team was servicing the car, when Trevor Bayne slammed nose first into the Turn 4 wall to trigger the third caution.

“I hurt so bad,” Bayne reported to his team. 

Hamlin led the lead lap cars onto pit road on Lap 231. He had led 193 laps. Kenseth was second followed by Truex, Jones and Harvick. Kenseth won the race off of pit road  and chose the outside lane when the race returned to green on Lap 236. Hamlin ran second followed by Truex, Harvick, Jones, Newman, Elliott, Bowyer, McMurray and Kyle Busch. Blaney, Paul Menard Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch and Stenhouse rounded out the top 15 with Keselowski in 16th. 

Harvick had passed Truex for third by the time the fourth caution was called for a brake hose on the race track on Lap 239. 

“It’s just loose, the front is fine,” Harvick said. 

Kenseth led the field to green on Lap 244 followed by Hamlin, Harvick, Truex, Newman, Jones, Elliott, McMurray, Ty Dillon, Blaney, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Menard, Stenhouse and Kurt Busch. Keselowski restarted 17th after pitting during the caution. 

Truex moved to the inside of Hamlin in the dogleg and passed the No. 11 for second. He attempted the same move on Kenseth, who held Truex off. On the next lap, Hamlin regained second, Truex dropped to third followed by Jones, Harvick, Elliott, McMurray, Blaney, Newman and Kyle Busch.

Elliott passed Jones for fourth on Lap 249 and Harvick dropped to sixth. 

Daniel Suarez made contact with Chris Buescher and cut the tire on the No. 37 Chevy to bring out the fifth caution on Lap 251. A piece of the brake rotor from Buescher’s car flipped into the SAFER barrier in Turn 3 and the foam caught on fire to bring out the red flag at two-hours, 20-minutes.

Kenseth held onto the lead followed by Hamlin, Truex, Elliott, Jones, Harvick, McMurray, Blaney Newman and Kyle Busch when the race returned to yellow after the five-minute, three-second delay. Jones was the first to pit on Lap 255. Harvick, Kyle Busch, McMurray, Menard, Earnhardt and Bowyer came in for service.

Kenseth controlled the restart on Lap 258 with Hamlin, Elliott, Truex, Blaney, Newman, Keselowski, Logano, Suarez and Kurt Busch in tow. Elliott passed Hamlin for second after the first lap. The field completed three laps before Cole Whitt hit the wall in Turns 3 and 4 to bring out the sixth caution on Lap 260. 

Kenseth took the high lane with Elliott inside followed by Hamlin, Truex, Blaney, Newman, Logano, Keselowski, Jones, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Harvick, Bowyer, Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Earnhardt, Menard, Almirola and Ty Dillon when the race returned to green on Lap 266.

Truex moved up to second on the restart. On the next lap, Hamlin went to the inside of Elliott in the dogleg for third. Blaney ran fifth followed by Newman, Keselowski, Jones, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. 

Hamlin and Elliott made contact coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 270 and Elliott passed him for third bringing Blaney with him. On Lap 275, Hamlin slammed into the Turn 3 wall as the crowd roared. 

“You ok,” the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team asked Hamlin if he was ok. There was no reply before Hamlin climbed from the car. 

Kenseth remained on the track with the lead followed by Truex, Elliott, Jones, Blaney, Newman, McMurray, Kurt Busch, Stenhouse, Bowyer and Suarez. Harvick, who pitted for service, lined up 12th followed Kyle Busch. 

On the Lap 282 restart, Jones slowed and Newman plowed into the back of the No. 77 Toyota. Kurt Busch crinkled the front end of the No. 41 Ford after hitting Newman. Keselowski went high to avoid the wreck and dropped to 18th. Elliott moved up to second and set his sights on Kenseth. Truex dropped to third. Elliott went low and passed Kenseth through Turn 3 for the lead — and the crowd erupted again.

With 20 laps remaining, Elliott held a .649-second lead over Kenseth. Truex, Jones, McMurray, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Stenhouse, Almirola and Blaney rounded out the top 10. 

Kenseth chased Elliott with 12 to go and changed his line coming through Turns 3 and 4. He came back down out of Turn 2 and took the lead on the backstretch on Lap 303. Elliott told the team the car was tight. Spotter Eddie D’Hondt replied, “We’re fighting for our lives.”

Cla#DriverManufacturerLapsTimeLaps Led
1 20 united_states Matt Kenseth  Toyota 312   60
2 24 united_states Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 312 1.207 32
3 78 united_states Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 312 1.358  
4 77 united_states Erik Jones  Toyota 312 1.435  
5 4 united_states Kevin Harvick  Ford 312 1.750  
6 1 united_states Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 312 3.904  
7 18 united_states Kyle Busch  Toyota 312 4.428  
8 17 united_states Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 312 4.730  
9 43 united_states Aric Almirola  Ford 312 5.166  
10 88 united_states Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Chevrolet 312 7.267  
11 13 united_states Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 312 9.759  
12 22 united_states Joey Logano  Ford 312 11.119  
13 14 united_states Clint Bowyer  Ford 312 12.799  
14 3 united_states Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 312 13.330  
15 27 united_states Paul Menard  Chevrolet 312 14.872  
16 2 united_states Brad Keselowski  Ford 312 17.379  
17 21 united_states Ryan Blaney  Ford 312 17.865 10
18 19 mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 312 18.212  
19 5 united_states Kasey Kahne  Chevrolet 311 1 lap  
20 31 united_states Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 311 1 lap  
21 41 united_states Kurt Busch  Ford 310 2 laps  
22 95 united_states Michael McDowell  Chevrolet 309 3 laps  
23 47 united_states A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 309 3 laps  
24 34 united_states Landon Cassill  Ford 309 3 laps  
25 10 united_states Danica Patrick  Ford 309 3 laps  
26 15 canada D.J. Kennington  Chevrolet 307 5 laps  
27 32 united_states Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 306 6 laps  
28 66 united_states David Starr  Chevrolet 305 7 laps  
29 33 united_states Jeffrey Earnhardt  Chevrolet 305 7 laps  
30 7 united_states Joey Gase  Chevrolet 304 8 laps  
31 23 united_states Corey Lajoie  Toyota 303 9 laps  
32 00 united_states Derrike Cope  Chevrolet 302 10 laps  
33 38 united_states David Ragan  Ford 301 11 laps  
34 51 united_states Kyle Weatherman  Chevrolet 294 18 laps  
35 11 united_states Denny Hamlin  Toyota 275 37 laps 191
36 72 united_states Cole Whitt  Chevrolet 258 54 laps  
37 37 united_states Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 247 65 laps  
38 6 united_states Trevor Bayne  Ford 226 86 laps  
39 48 united_states Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 148 164 laps  
40 42 united_states Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 104 208 laps 11
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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Phoenix II
Location ISM Raceway
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Chase Elliott
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Author Lee Spencer
Article type Race report