Kenseth picks up first Cup Series win of 2017

By Isabel Gonzalez
November 12, 2017

AVONDALE, Ariz.—Five drivers were battling on Sunday for the fourth spot that would allow them to compete for the championship next week. None of those drivers were Matt Kenseth, but his victory at the 30th Annual Can-Am 500 still filled him with tears of joy.

The driver of the No. 20 Circle K Toyota Camry said he couldn’t quite describe his emotions after this win, saying he wasn’t sure he would be able to get back into victory lane with only two races left.

This due to the fact that he does not have a spot with Joe Gibbs Racing for next season.

“It couldn’t be any sweeter. I just don’t know how else to explain it, you know?” he said. “We needed to go out and get the job done and get us a win and we were able to do that today, so we’ve got one more race left and, like I said, great way to go out.”

Kenseth led twice for a total of 62 laps. Only Denny Hamlin led more laps, a total 193 in three stints.

Hamlin seemed like a strong contender early on. He had a chance to with Stage 1 but Kyle Larson fought hard and took it from him. Larson, however, ended his day early with the 40th position after an engine issue on lap 105.  This was the fourth straight week the No. 42 team failed to finish.

Later in the race, Hamlin also suffered from bad luck.  An incident on lap 276 in Turn 3, the No. 11 car hit the wall, sending Hamlin’s championship hopes up in smoke with a 35th-place result.

Five laps prior to this, Chase Elliott bumped into Hamlin, which led to one of the tires of the No. 11 to suffer some damage.

Two weeks ago, the same two drivers found themselves in a situation where the roles were reversed. Hamlin made contact with Elliott during the First Data 500, sending him into the wall when he was leading. Elliott was upset and confronted him on pit road after the race.

When Hamlin talked about the accident this Sunday, he brought up that incident and said that this could have been a little bit of retaliation on Elliott’s part.

“Each person had their own opinion of how they do things and it just proved to the people that thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing in the same circumstances, so, I mean, you know, it’s just part of racing,” Hamlin said.

“I got into him and he chose to retaliate, so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is. We did a great job all day. This is the best car I’ve had in a very long time.

“We just got behind on the pit stops and then that just gave those guys an opportunity to get close.”

Elliott took second place at the Can-Am 500, but this was a hard one to swallow for the driver of the No. 24 since this left him without a championship spot. Elliott led three times, the last time starting at lap 284 until Kenseth took the lead during the 303rd lap.

The third spot went to Martin Truex Jr. who has had his spot in the Championship guaranteed since at the AAA Texas 500 a week ago.

Ryan Blaney opened up the day as the pole winner and managed to stay on top for the first 11 laps but ended the day at the 17th spot.

Up next, Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will face each other in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19 to see who lifts the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy.

Isabel Gonzales/The Racing Experts