Chase thriller at Phoenix was everything a race fan could want
It took nine tries, but by God, we finally got a thrilling Chase race, one that will be talked about for a very long time.
Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway had everything a race fan could want:
Alex Bowman, who has no ride for next year, qualified on the pole in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and drove the race of his life, leading 194 laps before a late-race incident dropped him to sixth.
Kevin Harvick, the eight-time Phoenix winner, was off all weekend but charged back from 18th place to nearly pull it off before finishing fourth.
Kyle Larson spun out twice, including on the very first lap and recovered to finish third.
There was palpable tension throughout the race as to which two drivers would make it to the championship round.
And then at the end, a racing incident occurred on the first overtime restart that wound up with race leader Matt Kenseth coming down on Alex Bowman, who’d been hit from behind by Kyle Busch. Kenseth thought he was clear of Bowman when he moved down, but he wasn’t.
The contact sent Kenseth spinning and into the wall. It happened in the blink of an eye.
Instead of winning the race and moving to the Chase finale, Kenseth finished 21st and got knocked out of the Chase.
After the race you saw the whole gamut of emotions.
Busch blamed himself for the Kenseth crash. “Essentially, I guess, I wrecked a teammate … I feel horrible about it,” said Busch.
Later, when asked about how he felt about making the Chase finale, Busch added, “Right now, it feels pretty sh—y.”
Kenseth, understandably, was frustrated. He said he thought he had been cleared by his spotter when he moved down and hit Bowman.
Chris Osborne, Kenseth’s spotter, said it was his fault. Whether it was or wasn’t, Osborne manned up in the biggest way possible.
Osborne wasn’t the only one who was gracious in defeat.
“That's all you can ask,” added Harvick, who miss the championship round for the first time in three years. “Just go down swinging.”
Bowman was mad that he didn’t win.
“We were so strong all day, fastest car,” he said. “But the fastest car didn’t win the race this weekend.”
On the flip side, race winner Logano was elated and has surprised as the race fans were.
“This wasn’t just a race,” said Logano. “This was for a shot at the championship next week. The 22 car is going there and we have a hell of a shot at it. I couldn’t be more proud of the team executing today under pressure.”
There was also controversy in the form of NASCAR penalties handed out to Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. for passing the pace car under caution.
And there was genuine debate among fans about who was to blame in the Kenseth-Bowman-Busch debacle.
In other words, lots of highs, a few lows and lot to talk about at the water cooler Monday morning.
And that’s what NASCAR racing is supposed to be about.
See you in Homestead.
Apologies to EVERY @mattkenseth fan out there for ending our chase hopes today! Obviously this 1's on me!!
— Chris Osborne (@crazy_spotter) November 13, 2016
We gave it 100% today and came up short. Proud of my @FedEx team and everything we've done this year. 1 more chance at a win next week.
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) November 13, 2016