It wasn’t looking good early at Phoenix, but Brad Keselowski managed to overcome his early struggles to advance to the championship race at Homestead.
Keselowski joins Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick — who had all clinched prior to Sunday’s race — as the four drivers who will race for the championship. Kes was 18th after the first stage, and it looked like Hamlin would be the one advancing.
However, Chase Elliott bumped Hamlin late in the race, and Hamlin blew a tire. The move eliminated Hamlin from the race and from championship contention, and Hamlin believed it was retaliation from when he hit Elliott at Martinsville two weeks ago.
“I got him (at Martinsville) and he chose to retaliate,” Hamlin said on NBC after he left the race.
Elliott didn’t deny it was retaliation after the race.
“I’m going to race guys how they race me and keep a smile on my face regardless,” Elliott said.
There’s certainly some bad blood between Hamlin and Elliott, and this could be a feud that lasts into next season.
Regardless, Keselowski is the one who benefitted from their feud the most as he advances despite finishing 16th. Hamlin’s early exit helped Kes tremendously, and Kenseth passing and holding off Elliott clinched it for Keselowski. Ryan Blaney finished a spot behind him at 17th, and Jimmie Johnson’s day came to an early end after he hit the wall early.
Three of the drivers in the championship race have won a championship, including Keselowski, Busch and Harvick. Truex is the only one without a championship, but he has the most wins this season with seven and will likely be considered the favorite given his success this year.
The championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is set for Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.