Denny Hamlin picked up his fifth win of the season on Sunday, taking the checkered flag at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Hamlin finished .128 seconds ahead of Chase Elliott, who rode his second-place finish to a spot in the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff.
Hamlin, Elliott Both Feel Like Winners
Both the battle for first place, and the playoff implications throughout the field, came down to the final seconds, as a late restart forced a second overtime that changed who would go through to the Round of 8.
Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez triggered an accident during a first overtime period that came as the field was heading toward the start-finish line. The caution light was activated just before the first car (Hamlin) took the white flag, meaning that a second overtime period was triggered.
Had Hamlin reached the start line before that occurred, the race simply would have ended. That would have been good news for Keselowski, who at the time, had done well enough to hold on to the eighth and final spot in the next round of the playoffs.
The restart provided an opportunity for one last bit of drama. Elliott, in particular, felt that he had a chance to push for a win off the restart, a result that would earn him an automatic spot in the next round.
Elliott was in a difficult spot, though, as Hamlin was joined by teammates from Joe Gibbs Racing who were going to try to guide him to victory. While Elliott did all he could, his efforts only got him into second place.
Keselowski Falls Back, Out of Playoffs
Elliott’s heroics wouldn’t have been enough to make the playoffs, except that Keselowski struggled off the restart. While he began the second overtime in 13th place, he fell all the way back to 19th. In the end, that allowed Elliott to erase a 20-point pre-race deficit, and put himself just three points ahead of Keselowski for the final playoff position.
“The good news was the bottom lane rolled good enough on the last restart to at least get back to second,” Elliott told reporters after the race. “So I appreciate the effort. We were really struggling there at one point in the race. You have to stay fighting in these things, especially with these late-race restarts.”
Meanwhile, Keselowski bemoaned the fact that he was unable to do enough to advance.
“I pushed as hard as I knew how and didn’t quite do good enough on the last restart, and that was it,” he said afterwards. “We clawed as hard as we could and there were times it looked like we were going to be fine, and times it didn’t. In the end it didn’t work out.”
Who’s In The NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8?
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex, Jr.
- Denny Hamlin
- Joey Logano
- Kevin Harvick
- Chase Elliott
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Blaney
The remaining playoff contenders will now have three races to grab one of the four spots in the final, championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17. The top finisher among the final four contenders will win the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series championship.