AVONDALE, Ariz. — Denny Hamlin avenged a late pass by Kyle Larson in the opening stage and dominated the second stage of Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway, scoring his fourth stage win of the season.
Having scored a combined 19 points through the first two stages, Hamlin has drawn even with Brad Keselowski for the final spot in the Championship 4.
Despite being passed by Larson with eight laps to go in the opening 75-lap stage, Hamlin won the race off pit road and led the field back to green on lap 84 ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.
But just as he was in the first stage, the man on the move was Larson, who rolled from fourth to second in six laps and set out to erase a quick 1.3-second deficit to the leading No. 11 FedEx Toyota.
However, Larson had to drop suddenly to pit road on lap 104, with the crew going under the hood and Larson ultimately going to the garage with the second engine failure of his career in just four weeks’ time.
That left Hamlin unchallenged for the remaining distance, but the championship picture took a dramatic turn on the final lap of the stage as Jimmie Johnson blew a right-front tire and pounded the turn four wall, bringing out a stage-ending caution.
Running 11th just before the crash, Johnson headed to the garage with race-ending damage, seeing his shot at scoring a record-setting eighth Cup title dashed until the new season in February.
Meanwhile, a Toyota sweep of the top-five in the second stage saw Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch follow Hamlin across the start-finish line.
Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer completed the points-scoring drivers in the top-10 at the second stage break.
As the race leader, Hamlin provisionally holds the final spot in the Championship 4 with 162 laps remaining to be run.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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