Updated: November 13, 2017

 In what could be his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Circle K Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, passed a desperate Chase Elliott in the closing laps to win Sunday’s Can-Am 500 in front of a sellout crowd.
“It couldn’t be any sweeter,” said Kenseth, who announced this week he would be stepping away from racing in 2018. “I just don’t know how to explain it. We needed to go out and get the job done and get us a win. We were able to do that today, We got one race left and (this is) a great way to go out. I’ve been so incredibly blessed my whole career and have had so many great people work with me.”
This was Kenseth’s second Monster Energy Series win at Phoenix, his first coming in 2002. In 30 starts, he has seven top fives and 12 top 10s. He also has one NASCAR XFINITY Series win in the Valley of the Sun in 2006.
For about 20 laps, it looked as though the “win and you’re in” mantra would come true for Chase Elliott as he passed Kenseth after a lap-283 restart. Elliott was also a part of the reason for that caution, as contact between him and No. 11 Denny Hamlin led to Hamlin losing a tire and hitting the wall on lap 281. The two drivers had a run-in two weeks ago in Martinsville Speedway, when Hamlin turned Elliott for the race lead.
Elliott appeared to be headed towards claiming the final Championship 4 spot, but his car faded as the laps went on, and Kenseth quickly caught up and passed him with 10 laps remaining. Elliott finished second, but came up short in advancing to Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Brad Keselowski, who started 16th in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, struggled from the beginning of the race. After Hamlin’s wreck, he had a comfortable points cushion, though contact on the last restart made the situation a little more worrisome. Keselowski finished 16th and earned the last Championship 4 slot.
“It kind of just feels a little bit like Christmas,” said Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy Series Champion. “Sometimes, you need a little luck on your side. Today we had that. It wasn’t, by any means, where we wanted to run. We wanted to run up front and have a shot for the win, but that wasn’t in the cards. We tried to just run the smartest race we could and survive, and it ended up paying off in the end. Homestead is a lot different than Phoenix. Hopefully, we can find what we need to be able to run up front there and catch some breaks, and just win it, hands down.”
Coming into Phoenix, three of the four spots were already clinched Kyle Busch (won at Martinsville), Kevin Harvick (won at Texas) and Martin Truex Jr. (clinched on points). Truex and Harvick finished third and fifth, respectively, while Busch finished seventh.

Keselowski clinches final Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway

JR Motorsports places three cars in Championship 4

PHOENIX – Phoenix Raceway has not been kind to William Byron, driver of the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, but he conquered the one-mile oval by winning Saturday’s Ticket Galaxy 200, despite having a substitute pit crew.

“Yeah, I don’t know how we did it (held off the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford of Ryan Blaney for the win),” said Byron. “The two tires took off pretty good. I was so used to long runs, and had my car set up for that. I took off pretty free there, but it held on really good. I’m just proud of this whole team to make that call. It was a gutsy call, and all these guys that subbed in today from Hendrick Motorsports did a great job. We’re building fast race cars at JR Motorsports, and our individual team is starting to really figure out what we need to do to get better. We’ve got one more week to clean that up and hopefully get a championship.”

Byron finished fourth in his other NASCAR XFINITY Series start at Phoenix, but has experienced heartbreak here in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In his first start, he exited the race after a wreck on lap 7. In last year’s Lucas Oil 150, Byron had the dominant truck, leading 112 of 150 laps, but a blown engine with eight laps to go took him out of contention for the win and the championship. Saturday’s race is his first career NASCAR win in the desert.

Byron and his JR Motosports teammates, No. 7 Justin Allgaier and No. 1 Elliott Sadler, maintained a comfortable points cushion over fifth place to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead, despite all three pit crews not making it to Phoenix in time for the race, due to a flight delay.

The closest battle all race was between Daniel Hemric’s No. 21 Smokey Mountain Snuff Chevrolet and the No. 00 Ford of Cole Custer for the final Championship 4 spot. There were only five points separating the two coming into Phoenix. They ran near each other for most of the race, and it came to a head in the closing laps when they battled side-by-side and made contact. Hemric prevailed, taking fifth place, while Custer finished seventh, missing the Championship 4 by four points.

“Our pit crew kept us in the game all day,” said Hemric. “With the lack of speed we had taking off, gaining spots on pit road all day gave us an opportunity to restart, move back up, not lose too much and be able to move back up towards the end of a run. Just so proud of all these guys. Thanks to everybody for the effort. Smokey Mountain will be on the car for the last race with us this year. It’s been fun working with those guys. Just happy to be able to go to Homestead and race for a championship.”

At the beginning of Saturday’s race, the No. 48 Chevrolet of Brennan Poole was in the Championship 4 with a five-point lead. But his title hopes were dashed on lap 22, when contact with the lapped car of Caesar Bacarella cut a right front tire sending Poole into the outside wall. The DC Solar Chevrolet team tried to repair the damage, but was unable to continue. Poole finished 38th.

Blaney had the dominant car, leading a race-high 147 laps, but a caution on lap 180 led to a round of pit stops, and Blaney came out in fourth when the top three cars took two tires. Blaney battled back to second, but was unable to catch Byron. Erik Jones finished third, followed by Christopher Bell and Hemric.

The track will celebrate Veterans Day on Saturday, Nov. 11 with recognition festivities

PHOENIX – To celebrate Veterans Day during the Can-Am 500 race weekend, Phoenix Raceway will honor veterans and recognize the military leading up to and during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

The festivities will be capped off with Sunday’s flyover, featuring four F-35 fighter jets from Luke Air Force Base 61st Fighter Squadron. This is the second-consecutive year with a four-plane flyover, and the first to feature all F-35s.

Prior to the Can-Am 500, Phoenix Raceway is honored to host a Delayed-Entry Program swearing-in ceremony on the pre-race stage on the front stretch. These new swear-ins will assist with the unfurling of two large flags during the presentation of colors. There will also be military members stationed at each drivers’ pit stall during the pre-race ceremonies.

On Veterans Day Saturday, November 11, Phoenix Raceway will honor a US Air Force Veteran from Operation Desert Storm, as well as an E-5 Sergeant from the US Army. A retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Five and 41-year Army Vietnam Veteran will also be accepting a ticket donation from ISM Connect on behalf of the USO Arizona. Tickets have been distributed to active military and veterans organizations.

The weekend celebration began on Thursday, Nov. 9 at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, where NASCAR drivers Corey LaJoie, Jesse Iwuji, Justin Haley and Cassie Gannis participated in an autograph session and took a tour of the facility, meeting with local veterans. LaJoie is a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver for BK Racing, while Iwuji is an active officer in the United States Navy and competed full time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this season. Haley will race in Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and Gannis, a local Phoenician, has previously competed in the Truck and K&N West Series at her hometown track.