Denny Hamlin was surrounded by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates on the entrance on the ultimate restart, and that put Chase Elliott in essentially the most tough and precarious of conditions. One way or the other, he figured, he wanted to discover a solution to beat all of them to advance in NASCAR’s playoffs. It turned out second place was ok.
Hamlin roared away with a push from behind from teammate Kyle Busch on the second shot at a green-white-checkered end, and Elliott was unable to chase him down. However deep within the discipline, Brad Keselowski was going backward, and the spots he misplaced within the elimination race at Kansas Speedway have been sufficient to ship Elliott by within the remaining cut-off spot to the spherical of eight.
Hamlin received the race. Elliott felt nearly as if he did.
“You must keep combating in these items, particularly with the late-race restarts,” he mentioned. “Simply excited we get to battle one other race. Again up towards the wall, to come back out right here and battle for the win, that is what it’s important to do while you’re within the place we have been in.”
In a little bit of irony, it was Keselowski who helped convey out the warning within the first extra time when he acquired into Daniel Suarez and triggered a wreck that collected teammate Joey Logano. The sphere was nearing the start-finish line however the warning gentle got here on earlier than the chief took the white flag.
If Hamlin had crossed a split-second faster, the race would have been over and Keselowski secure.
“I pushed as onerous as I knew how and did not fairly do ok on the final restart and that was it,” Keselowski mentioned. “We clawed as onerous as we might and there have been occasions it appeared like we have been going to be tremendous and occasions it did not. In the long run it did not work out.”
Kyle Busch in the end completed third, adopted by Kurt Busch and William Byron. However the important thing was Keselowski, who dropped from 13th to 19th on the ultimate restart and out of the following spherical of the playoffs.
He ended up three factors — equal to 3 positions on the observe — beneath the cutoff line.
Byron was the following driver eradicated regardless of a powerful run at Kansas, the place he would have wanted a win to advance. Alex Bowman and home-state hero Clint Bowyer additionally have been eradicated.
“I did suppose we have been OK,” Keselowski mentioned, “however clearly we weren’t.”
The win was the fifth this season for Hamlin, who already was in good condition to advance however picked up worthwhile playoff factors with the win. He’d completed within the prime 5 at Kansas twice prior to now couple years, however the journey to victory lane was the primary for his Joe Gibbs Racing staff since 2012.
“This was a troublesome observe for us. We did not run excellent right here within the spring,” mentioned his crew chief, Chris Gabehart. “We acquired a number of key changes that turned us right into a dominant automobile.”
The frenzied push to the end Sunday started when Blaney scraped the wall with 14 to go, inflicting his tire to go down and a warning flag to fly. Elliott was three factors behind Keselowski at that time, however the savior of Hendrick Motorsports’ playoff hopes made a giant transfer on the restart to climb to fourth place, and that put the stress proper again on Keselowski to make up floor.
Elliott was nonetheless in good condition till one other warning flew, jumbling the entrance of the pack and giving Keselowski an opportunity. He made a fast cease and picked up three spots on pit highway, placing Elliott again in a scenario the place it appeared he would want a victory to advance.
“I used to be below the impression,” he mentioned.
Your entire discipline acquired by the primary playoff restart cleanly, however Keselowski ran out of room deep within the pack and nudged Suarez, sending him into the wall. Logano additionally was closely broken within the wreck, throwing his personal playoff hopes into query as one other OT approached.
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Hamlin acquired a very good soar on the restart, and Elliott dived low and acquired in line. He instantly moved ahead into second place whereas Keselowski started hemorrhaging positions, and the change that was made within the remaining two laps was sufficient to ship Elliott into the following spherical.
“In case you ever get to Homestead, you are going to need to battle for a win,” he mentioned. “Happy with the hassle. Discovered so much. To have the ability to come out right here and, like I mentioned, in our minds need to win, come and battle for one, to complete second, I believe is step in the proper route for us.”
OTHER PLAYOFF DRIVERS
Bowyer had a powerful end in eighth, however the playoff contender was a non-factor many of the day regardless of needing a win to advance. Kevin Harvick began 40th after inspection points and by no means making it on the observe to qualify, however he labored his approach by the sector to complete ninth.
“That was not an excellent weekend from prime to backside,” Harvick mentioned. “I simply did not have an excellent automobile and did not have an excellent day on pit highway. Nothing went proper all weekend. It was positively one of many worst weekends now we have had shortly.”
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Amongst non-playoff drivers, Erik Jones was amongst his three Gibbs playoff teammates in rivalry for the win earlier than ending seventh. Jimmie Johnson rallied from a sluggish begin to end 10th.
Keselowski received the spring race at Martinsville, although that in all probability would not make him really feel a lot better returning now that he is outdoors the playoffs. Logano edged Hamlin within the playoff race a yr in the past.