Denny Hamlin has booked his place in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Championship 4 by winning the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was below the cutline heading into the 500km race before clinching victory in a three-lap shootout to the end.
Hamlin defeated team-mate Kyle Busch by 0.377s, but the points were enough for the #18 Toyota driver to also qualify for the final four.
Team Penske’s Joey Logano, on the other hand, will not go back-to-back in 2019 having dropped to fifth in the standings.
The run to the finish was set up when Joe Nemechek (#15 Premium Motorsports) who also crashed at Turn 1 and caused a Caution, with Hamlin ensuring he stayed in the lead by taking only two tyres in the pits.
The #11 Toyota driver made a strong getaway and ultimately sealed his sixth win of the season.
Ryan Blaney (#12 Team Penske) finished third and Kyle Larson (#42 Chip Ganassi Racing) in fourth, however, both failed to score enough points to reach the final four.
Kevin Harvick (#4 Stewart-Haas Racing) was fifth and Martin Truex Jnr (#19 Joe Gibbs Racing) sixth, although both drivers had already qualified for the Championship 4 with wins in the preceding fortnight.
Logano won Stage 2 but took ninth in the end, while Chase Elliott (#9 Hendrick Motorsports) was the first driver to fall out of championship contention when he suffered a tyre failure and crashing hard into the wall at Turn 1 on Lap 166.
The championship decider will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15-17 (local time).
Championship 4 qualifiers
|Denny Hamlin||#11 Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|Kevin Harvick||#4 Stewart-Hass Racing||Ford|
|Martin Truex Jnr||#19 Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|Kyle Busch||#18 Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
Replay: Final laps