Comments from the four eliminated drivers
By Dominic Aragon
November 14, 2016
AVONDALE, Ariz.—The Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday marked the conclusion of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Round of 8, eliminating four drivers from championship contention.
Denny Hamlin (-6 points)
Hamlin’s finish of seventh wasn’t enough to advance the driver to the Round of 4.
Hamlin led four laps, assuming the lead on a strategy to stay out during pit stops under a caution period at the lap 258 mark.
“I knew that when I saw we were the only ones to stay out, I knew we had an uphill climb and I still thought we were okay,” he said. “We singled out second behind the 20 and honestly our lap times cleaned out nice there with about 10 laps.
“We had that caution and that put me on the bottom on the restart and I just got shuffled from there. I knew it was going to be an uphill climb. We performed well this round, but not great and you need to be great to advance.”
Matt Kenseth (-19 points)
Despite leading 55 laps, a restart scuffle with Alex Bowman on an overtime restart cost Kenseth the chance to compete for the championship next weekend.
“It was a tough 15 minutes,” he said. “I’m proud of my race team. They did a good job, that’s the best car I’ve probably ever had at Phoenix, probably ever.
“Good pit stops and good executions and did everything we needed to do, just came down to a mistake there at the end that got us. Obviously it’s more than disappointing, we still had the race in control even on that last restart and I ended up giving it away.”
Kevin Harvick (-20 points)
Harvick endured his first elimination from the Chase since NASCAR moved to the current format in 2014. Harvick finished fourth, his seventh consecutive top-five at PIR.
“We just started way too far off on Friday,” Harvick said. “We never got a handle on the racecar. They made it a ton better in the race and we were in contention there at the end and just came up short.
“Just really proud of everybody for the effort that they put in. It was a very challenging Chase for us for all the mechanical failures and situations that we had going on.
“We kept rebounding and winning races and today we were a lap down and came back to have a chance at the end. That says a lot about the character of our race team and we just came up short this year.”
Kurt Busch (-37 points)
For the second consecutive season, Busch failed to advance from the Round of 8 for a chance to race for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch finished fifth, his fifth straight top-ten finish at PIR.
“We got up to the front as high as third and sniffed the front to try to win because we had to win to advance,” he said. “We didn't get the job done. The long run speed is where our Achilles Heel was these last few Chase races.
“It's a little disappointing, maybe we can pinpoint that as our exact problem and figure out how to fix that, but really proud of Tony Gibson (crew chief) and everybody that worked on these cars all year long from Stewart-Haas Racing.”