Kyle Busch dominated Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading 237 of 319 laps, but could only muster up a third-place finish in the race, beaten to the finish line by winner Kevin Harvick, who passed Busch on a restart with 15 laps to go, and runner-up Denny Hamlin.
Busch, who started the race from the pole, posted his sixth top five finish in nine Chase races after missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup by three points. The driver of Joe Gibbs Racing’s #18 M&Ms Toyota Camry blamed himself for losing the race to Harvick in the end. “M&M’s guys gave me an awesome piece, and unfortunately there I gave the race away,” said Busch post-race. “You know, I hate it for my guys, and they worked so hard and they dug hard this weekend, and obviously having a car that’s the class of the field you expect to win and you’re supposed to win, but I guess I just didn’t know how to win it today.”
Hamlin, in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota for JGR, backed up his spring win at Phoenix with a runner-up finish in a race that was marred by a number of late-race incidents, including one that took out the third JGR car, Joey Logano’s #20 Dollar General Toyota. Among the wreckage that occurred: Jimmie Johnson cut a tire and hit the wall on Lap 235 with massive championship implications – it moved Brad Keselowski into first place by 20 points over Johnson going into Homestead-Miami Speedway and the finale next weekend.
Logano was an innocent bystander in the on-track altercation between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer on Lap 312, as Gordon, who had been black-flagged for riding around after brushing the wall and getting a flat tire, got into Bowyer in a retaliatory move. More action happened in the garage area, as a fight broke out between Gordon and his team and Bowyer’s crew; Bowyer himself wanted to get into the fray, as he sprinted from pit road back to the team transporters to “have a word” with Gordon, but he was subdued by officials and his team members.
More problems occurred during the green-white-checkered finish, as Danica Patrick hit the wall and no caution was thrown; many cars, including Harvick and Hamlin, got into the fluid, and a major wreck took out a number of cars coming out of Turn Four and crossing the finish line. Hamlin was somehow able to make light of the incident in the post-race press conference: “There was a lot of stuff on the racetrack. I mean, that’s why that wreck happened on the front stretch is there was oil all over it. Ray Charles could see that.”
Logano finished 27th and maintains 17th-place in points. Busch kept his lock on 13th place, while Hamlin moved up two spots to fifth.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup heads to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday, November 18th. Stay up-to-date with JGR at joegibbsracing.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR.
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