Championship 4 set following Round of 8 finale at Phoenix

Championship 4 set following Round of 8 finale at Phoenix

Brad Keselowski took advantage of Denny Hamlin's DNF to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway with Kyle Busch (win at Martinsville), Kevin Harvick (win at Texas) and Martin Truex Jr. The issue cost Hamlin one spot, as Matt Kenseth edged Hamlin off pit road for the lead. The 10 points he earns for that, plus the nine he received for coming second in Stage 1, closed the entire points gap that Keselowski had coming into the race.

Elliott finished second in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday afternoon. Hamlin dropped to seventh, just ahead of Keselowski, before the tire blew. He has now won 39 races on the Monster Energy Cup Series throughout his career.

Hamlin is one of five drivers trying to secure the last open spot in next week's championship race.

Hamlin leads in the final 100 laps, though the cars have not yet pitted in the final segment. Which will be hard to do, particularly in the case of Blaney who will at least start the day P1 since he is on the pole.

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Johnson crashed on Lap 150 and has been eliminated from contention.

Hamlin erased all of Keselowski's points lead following the second stage. That means Keselowski must finish ahead of Hamlin in the race results, and Keselowski finished Stage 2 in 13th. Johnson's day ended early thanks to a blown tire just before the end of Stage 2. Keselowski will start 12th.

Hamlin led for 193 laps on Sunday and was in position to make a run for the win when he saw the 21-year-old Elliott come up on his bumper in the Final Stage. Had Elliott hung on for the win, he would have qualified for the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It's just, I guess, the industry didn't see Matt Kenseth as their driver, and that's really, really unfortunate because I love the guy and have raced with respect for him for a long, long time and will forever respect him for what he's done for the sport".

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