Keselowski, Joey Logano of Middletown,CT , Hamlin come up short in title pursuit at Phoenix

Middletown, Connecticut NASCAR Cup driver Joey Logano (Credit: AP photo)

Chris Graythen | Getty Images


By Zack Albert November 8, 2020  at 8:06 PM

A stout field of seasoned veterans pressed 24-year-old Chase Elliott throughout Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway, just lacking the closing oomph to take the NASCAR Cup Series championship for themselves.

In the end, Brad Keselowski finished second to Elliott — the newly crowned champ — in the Season Finale 500, followed under the checkered flag by Team Penske teammate Joey Logano in third and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in fourth. Though the other three were fixtures among the top five throughout the 312-mile event, none were able to stop Elliott down the stretch.

Keselowski actually slipped by Elliott for a Stage 2 win, but his run was slowed slightly by some missed time on pit stops. His No. 2 crew gave up six positions during a competition caution early in Stage 1, lost another four places during the Stage 2 break, then returned him to the track fourth among the Championship 4 after the final green-flag pit cycle. Nevertheless, Keselowski was able to rally, finishing 2.740 seconds behind Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“It’s a team effort, and just was tough to fight back through,” said Keselowski, who led 16 laps in a quest for his second Cup Series crown. “We got up to second there at the end, and I feel like we were pretty equal. The 9 car and I would have loved to have had a chance to race it out, but that’s not the way it played out.”

Logano led 125 laps — second only to Elliott’s 153 — and won the opening stage. Though he secured his second win of the season at Phoenix back in March, he didn’t have the same closing kick that Elliott did down the stretch in the finale.

Although he had visions of recreating the path to the championship that he carved out at the end of the 2018 season, he wound up two positions short.

“Obviously when you don’t win it, it hurts. It definitely stings,” Logano said. “Yeah, I told the guys before the race started, I said in these races when you get to the Championship 4, you can’t lose. You either win or you become stronger. Unfortunately we got stronger today.

“We learned a lot about ourselves and learned that we are capable. We’re capable of executing when we needed to. We just need to go faster. That was one thing. But I think overall there’s a lot to be proud of throughout the season, where we’ve come from, how much we’ve grown as a team, especially with the crew chief swap in the beginning of the season this year and without practice. That was a pretty big hurdle we had to jump.”

Hamlin entered the event as a trendy pick for pre-race favorite, having amassed seven victories this season — most of the four title contenders. He ended the race as the only one of the Championship 4 who did not take a turn in the lead, struggling at times with the short-track aptitude of his No. 11 JGR Toyota.

“We just didn’t have enough car potential for us,” said Hamlin, still seeking his first Cup Series title. “Our balance was not bad, maybe a little bit off, but just not enough in reserve. I think Penske and Hendrick both had two teammates inside the top 10 before we even got to our next best two other teammates. Our organization has got to get a little bit better on these types of tracks, and especially it being — it going to be the deciding factor in the championship.

“We’ve just overall got to get a little bit better. I knew for me probably around Lap 200 that we needed some special circumstances to kind of go our way.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *