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Sunday afternoon (11/11) the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series held Chase race #9 at Phoenix International Raceway. While Kevin Harvick won the AdvoCare 500, Jimmie Johnson’s hopes of a 6th championship may have “blown out.”
Kyle Busch dominated the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix. Kyle led 237 of the 319 total laps raced Sunday afternoon. However, as has happened several times to Kyle in the 2012 NASCAR season, it was not the #18 Toyota in Victory Lane after the race. Kevin Harvick managed to avoid some late race chaos on the track to break his long winless streak. Kevin powered past Kyle from the front row on two late race restarts to capture the win in the AdvoCare 500.
Kevin’s win was not the biggest news of the weekend in the Sprint Cup series as it should have been. It was overshadowed by a couple of major stories that resulted from incidents on the track. The first was when NASCAR Chase contender Jimmie Johnson hit the wall on lap 234. Jimmie headed into the AdvoCare 500 atop the point standings with a seven point lead over second place Brad Keselowski. Jimmie was racing hard afternoon to catch up to Brad on the track when his right front tire blew out and resulted in the #48 Chevrolet smashing into the outside retaining wall at Phoenix International Raceway.
Jimmie had to take his car to the garage for major repairs. By the time his team got him back on track he finished in the 32nd position, 38 laps behind Brad. Brad managed to finish in 6th place. That means he has a 20 point advantage over Jimmie headed into the final race of the season next week. Brad will only need to finish next week’s race in 15th place or better to claim his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
The other major story happened on lap 306 of the AdvoCare 500. Clint Bowyer drove under Jeff Gordon to try and make a pass on that lap. Clint got into the left rear tire of Jeff’s car in the process, cutting his tire and sending Jeff sliding into the wall. NASCAR black flagged Jeff to leave the track; however, Jeff had other intentions. Jeff waited for Clint to come around on the track and retaliated by wrecking Clint. The incident took away any slim chance that Clint could have a shot at the championship next week.
The incident then also continued off the track. When Jeff got out of his car off the track, Clint’s team members ran to where he was to take matters into their own hands. Jeff’s crew shielded the Sprint Cup driver from the onslaught and took on Clint’s team for their driver. The two drivers, their crew chiefs and car owners were summoned to the NASCAR hauler after the race. No word yet on if NASCAR will hand down any penalties to either of the drivers and teams for the incidents on and off the track.
Kevin Harvick did win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race with Denny Hamlin coming in second. Kyle Busch ended his dominating day with just a third place finish. Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth places respectively. See the complete AdvoCare 500 race results here.
Heading into the final race of the 2012 NASCAR season, the drivers from 3rd place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and down have been mathematically eliminated from any chance of winning the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Jimmie Johnson has that outside hope of winning his 6th championship should Brad Keselowski have something disastrous happen in the Ford EcoBoost 400. The NASCAR Championship is Brad’s to win or lose. All he will have to do (as mentioned earlier) is finish 15th or better on Sunday, November 18th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
By: Buck Stevens
Feature image photo credit: NASCARmedia.com/Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR