Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Can-Am 500
The Place: Phoenix Raceway
The Date: Sunday, Nov. 12
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 75),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on lap 312)
5 Drivers To Fight For Final Championship 4 Berth At Phoenix
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix Raceway for its penultimate race of the season and the Playoffs Round of 8 cutoff event – Sunday’s Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Three of the four berths in the Championship 4 race (Sunday, Nov. 19 at Homestead Miami Speedway, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) have been claimed. Kyle Busch captured the first with his win at Martinsville, Kevin Harvick took the second with his Texas victory and Martin Truex Jr. clinched the third via points following Texas.
Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson will duke it out on Sunday for the final spot in the Championship 4.
|Rank||Driver||Points||Race Wins||Playoff Points||Pts from Cutoff|
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||4168||–||69||–|
Keselowski sits 19 points above on the cutoff line for the final Championship 4 position. Hamlin is followed by Blaney (22 points behind Keselowski), Chase Elliott (-49) and Jimmie Johnson (-51). A victory at Phoenix by any of the winless Playoff-eligible drivers guarantees him a bid to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The five drivers have the following clinch scenarios:
- Keselowski – If Keselowski wins, he will clinch. If Kyle Busch/Truex/Harvick or a non-playoff driver wins, he would guarantee a clinch on points with 37 Points.
- Hamlin – If Hamlin wins, he will clinch. Could clinch on points with a Kyle Busch/Truex/Harvick or a non-playoff driver win and help.
- Blaney – If Blaney wins, he will clinch. Could clinch on points with a Kyle Busch/Truex/Harvick or a non-playoff driver win and help.
- Elliott – If Elliott wins, he will clinch. Could clinch on points with a Kyle Busch/Truex/Harvick or a non-playoff driver win and help.
- Johnson – If Johnson wins, he will clinch. Could clinch on points with a Kyle Busch/Truex/Harvick or a non-playoff driver win and help.
Keselowski Readies To Rack Up The Points In Sun Devil State
As it stands, Brad Keselowski has the best chance at making it to the Championship 4 of the five drivers vying for the final berth. He can clinch with a win at Phoenix, or with 37 points if Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick or a non-playoff driver takes the checkered flag at the one-mile track.
In 16 career starts at Phoenix, Keselowski has never won, but claims five top fives, eight top 10s and a 14.0 average finish.
Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title-winner, has never competed in the Championship 4.
Elliott Tries To Close At Phoenix
Chase Elliott essentially must win Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4.
The No. 24 Chevrolet driver finished 12th at Phoenix in March, but led 106 laps (second to Kyle Busch’s 114) and won the second stage.
In three career starts at the one-mile track, Elliott has finished eighth (March 2016), ninth (November 2016) and 12th (March 2017) for a 9.7 average finish.
Defending Champ Johnson Must Tame Phoenix To Have Shot At Record Eighth Title
Like his Hendrick Motorsports protégé Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson virtually needs to win at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4.
Johnson, the defending Monster Energy Series champion, is trying to surpass Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt (seven titles) with a record eighth crown.
In 28 career starts at Phoenix, Johnson boasts four wins, 15 top fives and 20 top 10s. Among active drivers at Phoenix he owns the series-best driver rating (111.0), the second-ranked average running position (8.4) and the third-best average finish (9.1).
The No. 48 Chevrolet driver has struggled lately. He finished 27th last week at Texas – three circuits off the lead lap. Johnson hasn’t finished in the top 10 since his seventh-place showing four races ago at Charlotte.
Hamlin Hopes To Muster Phoenix Magic
Despite finishes of seventh and third in the first two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 races, Denny Hamlin sits 19 points behind Brad Keselowski for the final berth in the Championship 4 entering Sunday’s cutoff race at Phoenix.
Luckily for Hamlin, he has a strong resume at the desert track. In 24 starts there, he boasts one win (March 2012), 10 top fives and 14 top 10s. Among active drivers at Phoenix, Hamlin has the fifth-best average finish (10.8) and sixth-best driver rating (95.1).
“Overall we had a good day in Texas,” Hamlin said. “We scored a lot of points, and that helped us, we just need to keep digging to give ourselves a shot at a win this weekend. That’s the way we’re going to pull this thing off. We’ve been up front to contend for a win at the end of these past two races, and that’s our plan again at Phoenix.”
Blaney Can Blaze To Championship 4 With Phoenix Victory
It’s been a season of firsts for Ryan Blaney. He earned his first victory and first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs berth. He’ll try to continue that trend by going to the Championship 4 for the first time. To achieve that feat, the 23-year-old North Carolinian either must win Sunday’s race at Phoenix or get a lot of help because he trails Brad Keselowski by 22 points for the final Championship 4 berth.
In three career starts at Phoenix, Blaney has finished 10th (March 2016), eighth (November 2016) and 23rd (March 2017).
Blaney has been in good form lately. He’s posted finishes of third, eighth and sixth in his last three races.
Phoenix Sun: Harvick Goes For Ninth Phoenix Win
Kevin Harvick owns the competition at Phoenix Raceway.
He holds the track record with eight wins at the one-mile track, four more than Jimmie Johnson.
By adding a ninth victory at Phoenix this weekend, Harvick would become the ninth driver with nine or more wins at a single track, joining: Richard Petty (Martinsville, 15; North Wilkesboro, 15; Richmond, 13; Rockingham, 11; Daytona, 10; Nashville Fairgrounds, 9), Dale Earnhardt (Talladega, 10; Atlanta, 9; Bristol, 9; Darlington, 9), Darrell Waltrip (Bristol, 12; Martinsville, 11; North Wilkesboro, 10), Cale Yarborough (Bristol, 9; Daytona, 9), David Person (Darlington, 10; Michigan, 9), Jimmie Johnson (Dover, 11; Martinsville, 9), Jeff Gordon (Martinsville, 9) and Rusty Wallace (Bristol, 9).
Harvick earned a berth in the Championship 4 with his win at Texas last week, but a win at Phoenix could help his title chances by knocking Johnson out of contention.
In addition to his eight Phoenix wins, Harvick has 13 top fives and 18 top 10s at the one-mile track. Among active drivers at Phoenix, he has the second-best average finish of 8.6 and third-best average running position (8.9) there.
Danica Patrick Reaches Milestone 250th Start
In Sunday’s Can-Am 250, Danica Patrick will become the first female to make 250 combined NASCAR national series starts. The list of top-10 female drivers in combined NASCAR national series starts is below:
|Jennifer Jo Cobb||178|
|Tammy Jo Kirk||47|
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Etc.
Manufacturer Championship Clinch Scenario: Toyota currently holds a 23-point lead over Ford in the manufacturer standings. To clinch an early title, Toyota needs to leave Phoenix with a 61-point lead over second place.