NASCAR at Phoenix: Matt Kenseth wins, but Brad Keselowski advances to championship

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Had Elliott hung on for the win, he would have qualified for the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kenseth - who had been passed over by Hendrick Motorsports when two Cup vacancies for next season were filled by younger drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman - cost Elliott and Hendrick a spot in the championship race when he made the pass in the Can-Am 500.

This left only one spot remaining for five drivers, but it was the No. 2 auto driver who punched his ticket with some help.

So the championship four is finally set now - Keselowski joins Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick - and now we have to wait just one more week to have our next NASCAR Cup Series champion. The 2003 NASCAR champion is a two-time Daytona 500 victor and consistent playoff driver, but he's 45 and being replaced at Joe Gibbs Racing next season by Erik Jones. Hamlin also saw his day end early due to a blown tire, which was more unexpected since he led for the majority of the race. He ran down Elliott and passed him easily to cruise to the 39th win of his career. Hamlin ruined Elliott's chances at his first career victory in the Round of 8 opener at Martinsville, putting him into the wall in the final laps two weeks ago.

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"I raced him how raced me". Hamlin grazed the wall and immediately began losing positions on the track. Elliott was in the lead with just under three laps remaining at Martinsville but Hamlin moved Elliott by hitting his back bumper in Turn 1, causing him to spin into the wall. "That's about all I have to say".

Stage 2: Hamlin dominated the second stage and cruised to a stage win without any fuss.

"It just proves to the people who thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing under the same circumstances", Hamlin told NBC Sports after the wreck. "I got into him and he chose to retaliate". The elimination of the seven-time champion means NASCAR will not have a repeat victor.

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