ISM Raceway, Phoenix, AZ — November 10, 2019
Two spots left to claim in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Bluegreen Vacations 500 today from ISM Speedway in Phoenix will determine who joins Martin Truex Jr.(19) and Kevin Harvick(4) in South Florida to race for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Kyle Busch(18) and Joey Logano(22) sit in the last two playoff positions at the beginning of the day. Denny Hamlin(11) is the first man out 20 points behind Logano. Interestingly those three qualified 1-2-3 for today’s race and in that order, Busch, Logano, and Hamlin.
Today’s race is 312 laps, with Stages of 75/75/162 laps. Last year’s winner, Kyle Busch would love to repeat and lock in one of the final spots with a victory. If anyone of the four drivers below the cut line, Hamlin, Ryan Blaney(12), Kyle Larson(42), or Chase Elliott(9) win, the final spot will go to the driver with the most points after today’s race. That is likely Kyle Busch or Logano. If any other driver scores a victory, both Busch and Logano are expected to advance baring a major problem besetting them.
Kyle Busch sped off into the lead with Logano close behind when the green flag waved starting the race. Hamlin moved into 2nd and the field seemed content to settle in and make laps.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) cut down a tire and brought out the yellow flag with just nine laps to go in the Stage. Setting up a sprint to end the first segment of the race. Pit strategy will also be key as drivers jockey to earn Stage points.
Exiting pit road the top three remained the same and all took on four new Goodyear racing tires. Some teams opted to take only two tires hoping to gain some track position. The race restarted with three laps to go, two drivers did not pit, Brad Keselowski(2), and William Byron(24). The strategy did not produce a win as drivers with fresher tires passed easily. However, Keselowski finished 6th and Byron 8th to earn Stage points.
Two of the drivers needing points the most took full advantage of the short run to the green and white checkered flag. Hamlin picked up 10 bonus points for winning the Stage and Elliott pocketed nine points for taking 2nd.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Having pitted just before the Stage ending yellow flag, the leaders stayed on the track. Hamlin and Elliott led the field to the green. Logano got a huge run on the start and moved to the front of the pack by the next time across the start/finish line. Elliott, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, and Ryan Blaney(12) made up the top five.
Logano dominated the 2nd Stage leading 68 laps to grab the 10 bonus points and the playoff point for the Stage win. Hamlin and Elliott put on a fierce battle for the 2nd spot, trading the lead several times over the last five laps. The battle got physical as the two drivers traded paint fighting for the extra bonus point.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||5|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Logano and Hamlin exited the pits first on the Stage ending pit stops, Kyle Busch and Elliott followed. The restart could get exciting if someone decides this may be their last chance to move to the lead.
Hamlin spun his rear tires on the restart, allowing Logano to pull out to a one-second lead. Once again Hamlin and Elliott battled door handle-to-door handle with Hamlin eventually pushing the nose of his car past the #9 car. On Lap 167, Elliott had a rear tire go down and he backed into the outside wall. The rear end of the car was destroyed, ending Elliott’s day and any chance of winning the Championship this year.
Back to green flag racing, Logano again fired off into the lead. This time Hamlin got a better launch and was able to battle past Logano after a couple of laps and get back to the front. Should Hamlin pick up the win, the final spot will go to Logano or Kyle Busch depending on who finishes ahead of the other.
Logano, with an ill-handling race car, began to lose positions. Kyle Busch passed, then Blaney, Harvick, and Truex sent the #22 car back to 6th place. Losing a half-second a lap, Logano dropped five points behind Busch for the final points position. Final pit stops may well determine the outcome.
Hamlin put Logano a lap down with 75 laps to go. The leaders are within the window they need to finish on a fuel fill-up during their next pit stop. Blaney and Harvick were the first to pit under green with 69 laps to go. Hamlin pitted with 66 laps to go.
After Pit Stops
Hamlin returned to the lead after pit stops cycled through. Logano remained a lap down but ran right behind Hamlin. A caution would allow Logano back on the lead lap. Kyle Busch, holding onto 2nd, could not make up any time on the leader.
With nine laps to go, John Hunter Nemechek(36) brought out the caution hitting the wall. All the lead lap drivers pitted, Hamlin and Blaney both took only two tires and exited 1st. Everyone else on the lead lap took four tires.
The restart came with three laps to go. Hamlin in 1st, Blaney in 2nd, a win by either one would advance them to Homestead. Hamlin drove away as Blaney and Kyle Busch battled for 2nd. Blaney drove Busch to the bottom of the track but could not hold him off. With teammates running 1-2 there was little likelihood of a last-lap bump and run. Besides, Bush was in on points with his 2nd place finish.
For Joey Logano, heartbreak. The defending Champion will not have a chance to go back-to-back as he was eliminated from this year’s playoffs.
The Championship Four is set. Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch. Joe Gibbs racing placed three cars in the final, the first time that has ever happened in this playoff format. Stewart-Haas Racing will rely on Kevin Harvick to defend Ford’s manufacturing championship.
Look for Live Coverage from The Lasco Press next week from the Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Results of the Bluegreen Vacations 500 from ISM Speedway
|1||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||—||312|
|2||18||Kyle Busch (P)||0.377||312|
|3||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||1.365||312|
|4||42||Kyle Larson (P)||1.401||312|
|5||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||1.947||312|
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||2.174||312|
|9||22||Joey Logano (P)||3.199||312|
|19||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||311|
|27||36||John Hunter Nemechek||-5||307|
|39||9||Chase Elliott (P)||-147||165|