NASCAR at Phoenix: Kenseth wins, Keselowski makes Championship 4

Matt Kenseth came away with an emotional win Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway in what might be the second-to-last race of his career, while Chase Elliott narrowly missed out on both the win and qualification for the Championship 4 in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Instead of Elliott, who was passed late by Kenseth and finished second, Brad Keselowski claimed the final spot in the Championship 4 next Sunday at Homestead. Keselowski finished 16th and qualified on points. Keselowski joins Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick as a competitor in the championship race.

“It’s been an incredible journey and there’s no way you could write it any better than this,” Kenseth said on the NBC Sports broadcast after the race. Kenseth will be taking a hiatus from NASCAR after the season, and might be stepping away for good.

WATCH: Elliott gets revenge as Hamlin wrecks at Phoenix

Denny Hamlin led 193 laps and looked like the clear front-runner to take the playoff win until Elliott bumped him with 37 laps left in the race. The bump led to one of Hamlin’s tires giving way and Hamlin slamming into the wall. Hamlin left the race and didn’t finish.

The drama at Phoenix reminded fans and media of what happened Oct. 29 at Martinsville, when Hamlin spun Elliott out late and ruined Elliott’s chance to win that day.

“Each person has their own opinion of how to do things. It just proves … that he (Elliott) would do the exact same thing in the same situation,” Hamlin told NBC Sports after the incident.

Hamlin won Stage 2. Kyle Larson won Stage 1. Jimmie Johnson’s bid for an eighth NASCAR Cup title ended during Stage 2 when his car blew a tire and was forced to the garage.

Check back on what you missed from the race with SN’s live updates.

(All times Eastern)

NASCAR at Phoenix

5:42 p.m.: Kenseth takes the win in Phoenix. And Keselowski hangs on to the final spot at Homestead on points. Elliott finished second.

5:38 p.m.: Kenseth steals the lead from Elliott. If Elliott doesn’t win, then Keselowski will qualify for the Championship 4 on points. Keselowski is 16th right now, but has the playoff points advantage on Blaney.

5:34 p.m.: Hamlin to the NBC Sports broadcast when asked about Elliott’s bump, which led to Hamlin’s wreck: “Each person has their own opinion of how to do things. It just proves … that he (Elliott) would do the exact same thing in the same situation.”

5:31 p.m.: Here is Elliott making the pass.

5:30 p.m.: Elliott has passed Kenseth for the lead. If he wins the race, he qualifies for the Championship 4 next Sunday at Homestead.

5:28 p.m.: Here’s the scenario right now.

5:26 p.m.: Here’s how Hamlin’s day ended. A tire gave out and the car slammed into the wall.

5:24 p.m.: Hamlin is out of the car and his day is done.

5:20 p.m.: Caution on the track as Hamlin has smoke coming out. Elliott’s bump earlier might have caused it. Hamlin’s chances are looking slim at the moment now that Keselowski passed him and he’s headed to the back.

5:18 p.m.: Hamlin and Elliott are battling for third. This could get really interesting after the drama in Martinsville.

5:16 p.m.: Back to green after a quick caution for Cole Whitt spinning out. Hamlin has now lost third position to Truex. Elliott and Kenseth are battling for the lead.

5:11 p.m.: Chase Elliott has claimed second ahead of Denny Hamlin.

5:05 p.m.: Back to yellow now.

5:01 p.m.: Red flag while part of the wall is repaired.

4:57 p.m.: Another yellow flag with Chris Buescher spinning out. 

4:53 p.m.: Kenseth commands the lead while Hamlin and Truex are battling for second.

4:43 p.m.: Here’s Bayne smacking the wall.

4:38 p.m.: Trevor Bayne brings out another caution.

4:20 p.m.: If a playoff driver does not win the race, the driver claiming the last spot in the title race will likely be the better finisher between Hamlin and Keselowski.

4:05 p.m.: Back to green.

4 p.m.: Hamlin wins Stage 2 and picks up some points in the playoff race.

3:57 p.m.: A blown tire for Johnson brings out the yellow flag. More importantly, the race and the playoffs are over for the 48.

3:49 p.m.: Hamlin is dominant so far.

3:36 p.m.: Another tough day for Larson. He hits the garage after having some engine issues.

3:30 p.m.: Top three on Lap 88 of 312: Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Larson.

3:26 p.m.: Underway for Stage 2.

3:16 p.m.: Kyle Larson wins Stage 1. He stole the lead from Hamlin.

3:11 p.m.: Hamlin looks to pick up some points from Stage 1. He leads the race with 11 laps left in the first stage.

2:55 p.m.: On Lap 32, the top three are Hamlin, Larson and Elliott.

2:45 p.m.: Chase Elliott just passed Ryan Blaney for the lead.

2:32 p.m.: Here we go.

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