Matt Kenseth wasn’t concerned with the championship picture and if the drivers around him needed a victory.
With 10 laps to go in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway, Kenseth drove to the inside of Chase Elliott and took the lead for the final time. Kenseth then drove away from the playoff driver to score his first win of the season and his first since Loudon in July 2016.
“I don’t know what to say except thank the Lord,” an emotional Kenseth said of what could be his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory after announcing last week he is not expecting to race next season. “It’s been an amazing journey. I know I’m a big baby right now, but just got one race left and everybody dreams of going out a winner.
.@MattKenseth takes the lead at @PhoenixRaceway.
Presented by @ToyotaRacing pic.twitter.com/NjXDcDKIXd
— #NASCARPlayoffs (@NASCAR) November 12, 2017
“We won today; nobody can take that one away from us. It was a heck of a race with Chase. Golly, just thanks DeWalt, Circle K, Toyota, all our sponsors and JGR for a great five years. It’s been quite the journey here the last 20. And thank you fans, I appreciate it.”
Elliott finished second and failed to advance into the Championship 4. The No. 24 team needed to win the race and Elliott did lead 32 laps. He took the lead from Kenseth with 29 laps to go after restarting from the final caution because of a Denny Hamlin crash.
Contact between Elliott and Hamlin off Turn 4 resulted a few laps later in Hamlin cutting down a tire and making heavy contact with the Turn 3 wall. Hamlin failed to finish the race and also did not advance to the championship race.
“I race people the way they race me.”- Chase Elliott
Was this payback for Martinsville? pic.twitter.com/dhlbUR5tMl
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) November 12, 2017
“That’s such a bummer. We were so close to having another shot next week,” Elliott said. “Can’t say enough for my team and our Hooters Chevrolet this weekend. We fought really, really hard today and gave ourselves a chance. … But man, that is such a bummer. I was telling my guys we’ll get it right someday, or I’ll get it right someday. We’ve had so many good opportunities, at some point we just got to close.”
Martin Truex Jr. battled Elliott to the checkered flag and finished third. His Furniture Row Racing teammate Erik Jones finished fourth with Kevin Harvick completing the top five.
Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 10. Brad Keselowski finished 16th and took the final spot in the Championship 4.
Eliminated along with Elliott and Hamlin was Ryan Blaney, who finished 17th, and Jimmie Johnson. The defending series champion crashed on lap 148 due to a blown tire and finished 39th.
The race featured seven cautions for 41 laps and nine lead changes among five drivers. Hamlin led the most laps (193) and won Stage 2. Kyle Larson, who picked up his fourth straight DNF because of a blown engine, won the first stage.