Hamlin Wins, Keselowski Out, Elliott In

It was a high pressure situation heading into Kansas for drivers on both sides of the cutline of the playoffs. When the checkered flag waved, 4 drivers were to be eliminated from championship contention and those below the cutline were dangerously shy of being in must-win situations, including Alex Bowman (-18), Chase Elliott (-22), Clint Bowyer (-24), and William Byron (-27). However, as the race progressed, the story changed repeatedly, from absolutely needing a win to advance to needing other drivers to have a bad day.

LAP 1: After a surprising qualifying session that saw drivers David Ragan, Michael McDowell, and Bubba Wallace in the Top 10, rookie Daniel Hemric won the pole position. When the green flag flew, the field fanned out 3, 4, and 5 wide while Hemric tried to get ahead with the lead.

LAP 5: Hemric was not strong enough to hold off hard-charging Kyle Larson in the #42. Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney were also running strong and waiting to pounce on the top spot.

LAP 7: As Hemric began fading into the midpack, the #2 of Keselowski and #42 of Larson battled for the lead, with Keselowski prevailing for P1.

LAP 9: Keselowski’s reign was short lived as he was passed by Larson, who settled into the lead and set sail a full 4 seconds ahead of P2.

LAP 48: Larson came to pit road near the end of green-flag pit stops. However, he stalled the #42 as he was leaving the pit box and the lead cycled to the #11 of Denny Hamlin.

CAUTION – LAP 74: The first yellow flag of the day flew for Ryan Newman who pushed Ricky Stenhouse Jr into the wall and dropped debris in Turn 4.

STAGE 1 END – LAP 80: Joey Logano won the stage after a 2-lap shootout following the prior caution. Chase Elliott, who was fighing for a playoff spot, came in a very close second. Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex jr, and Kyle Busch rounded out the Top 5.

LAP 87: On the restart to commence the second stage, Daniel Suarez beat Elliott for the lead thanks in part to a hard push from Truex Jr.

LAP 93: Truex stole the lead from Suarez after passing him on the apron of the front straightaway.

CAUTION – LAP 115: Kyle Larson, while racing in the top 10 and trying to make the high lane work, spun the #66 of Joey Gase. Gase was several laps down and was blocking the top groove. Clearly, Larson had enough of the blocks and sent Gase spinning through the grass.

LAP 126: Denny Hamlin passed Martin Truex for the lead and began to pace the field.

STAGE 2 END – LAP 160: Unsurprisingly, Hamlin continued dominating with a fast #11 Toyota Camry and won the second stage. Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr, William Byron, and Chase Ellliott rounded out the Top 5.

LAP 226: Hamlin was still out front and cycled back to the lead after the field made their final scheduled pit stop of the day under green. Hamlin passed Brad Keselowski which put the #2 driver a lap down. This played an important roll in how the end of the race and the points battle played out with Chase Elliott.

CAUTION – LAP 252: Ryan Blaney, who had been running in the Top 5 all race long, scraped wall in Turn 2 and cut the right rear tire. Blaney was on the apron coming to pit road when the tire came apart and shredded on the track. This triggered the caution for debris on the track.

Brad Keselowski was forced to take the wave around which hindered his performance on the restart while Elliott, who was still -3 points, was able to make up a few spots on the restart.

CAUTION – LAP 263: Bubba Wallace in the #43 had the entire left rear wheel fall off the car, hub and all. The #43 snapped sideways and the wheel flew in the other direction, triggring a caution that pushed the race into overtime. Matt Tifft was also collected in the accident.

Keselowski was able to come to pit road and put fresh tires on, while Elliott stayed on track.

CAUTION – LAP 269: The field was 4-wide coming to white flag when Daniel Suarez got loose in dirty air and wiggled sideways into the quarter panel of Keselowski. Suarez went into the wall, as did Daniel Hemric. Austin Dillon made an aggressive sharp left to avoid the accident and turned into Joey Logano, sending Logan through the grass.

It was revealed that Hamlin had not taken the white flag at the time of the caution, so drivers attempted overtime with yet another restart.

LAP 275: The race restarted with 2 laps remaining and Hamlin in P1. Elliott lined up behind him and provided assistance in pushing Hamlin to the lead, clear of Kyle Busch who restarted P2. Farther back in the pack, even the new tires didn’t help Keselowski who restarted P15 and was passed by Alex Bowman, Paul Menard, and Austin Dillon on the final lap.

CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 277: With Elliott in hot pursuit, Hamlin crossed the line to win his 5th race of the season. Elliott crossed the finish line as 3 points to the good, meanwhile Keselowski crossed in P19, surprisingly eliminating him from the playoffs. Additionally, Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Clint Bowyer were eliminated.

Moving on to the Round Of 8 which begins at Martinsville is Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin.

RESULTS:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Kurt Busch
  5. William Byron
  6. Martin Truex Jr
  7. Erik Jones
  8. Clint Bowyer
  9. Kevin Harvick
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Alex Bowman
  12. Ryan Preece
  13. Chris Buescher
  14. Kyle Larson
  15. Matt DiBenedetto
  16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  17. Joey Logano
  18. Paul Menard
  19. Brad Keselowski
  20. Austin Dillon
  21. Ryan Blaney
  22. Ty Dillon
  23. Aric Almirola
  24. Michael McDowell
  25. Matt Tifft
  26. David Ragan
  27. Ross Chastain
  28. Corey LaJoie
  29. Parker Cligerman
  30. JJ Yeley
  31. Daniel Hemric
  32. Daniel Suarez
  33. Reed Sorenson
  34. Garrett Smithley
  35. Bubba Wallace
  36. Josh Bilicki
  37. Landon Cassill
  38. Joey Gase
  39. Timmy Hill
  40. Ryan Newman

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