Joey Logano wins at Phoenix, advances to Championship 4 along with Kyle Busch

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Joey Logano and Kyle Busch were both winners in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Logano won his 17th career Sprint Cup race while Busch finished second, advancing both drivers into the Ford EcoBoost 400 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Logano will be seeking his first Sprint Cup championship, while Busch will be going for his second consecutive title.

Also in the Championship 4 will be Jimmie Johnson, who is seeking his seventh Sprint Cup crown — which would tie him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt — as well Carl Edwards. Edwards, like Logano, will be seeking his first championship.

“I’ve never felt this good about a win before,” Logano said of his first career Sprint Cup win at Phoenix. “There was so much on the line and everyone brings their A-game when it comes to winning championships and this team did it. Man, this feels so good.

“I had a good restart there at the end and holding off Kyle (Busch) to try to get this thing into Miami. We’re racing for a championship now. We did exactly what we had to do. We’ve got to go to Homestead and do the same thing. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Kyle Larson finished third followed by Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

MORE: Statistics and results from Phoenix

MORE: Sprint Cup point standings after Phoenix

Just when it appeared that Matt Kenseth would win the race on Lap 318, he made contact with Alex Bowman, causing Kenseth to spin into the wall and see his championship hope come to an abrupt end.

Bowman had been tapped from behind by Kyle Busch, which caused Bowman’s car to wiggle, but it appeared Kenseth came down too soon in front of Bowman and the duo made contact.

Logano was scored as the leader at the previous scoring loop when the caution came out and would hold on during the ensuing restart.

Harvick, who won the first Sprint Cup championship under the new elimination format in 2014 and also reached the final round last season, fell short of his third consecutive appearance in the final round.

“That’s all you can ask, to go down swinging and that’s what we did,” Harvick told NBCSN.

Also falling short of reaching the championship round were Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. As a result, only two of the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will be in the final round, while Stewart-Haas Racing will have no representatives.

Sunday’s race was scheduled for 312 laps, but due to a caution on Lap 311 when Michael McDowell crashed, as well as Kenseth’s wreck on Lap 318, the event went an extra 12 laps of overtime for a total of 324 laps.

Substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., pole-sitter Alex Bowman led the first 92 laps. That was quite a contrast as Bowman had led a total of just nine laps overall in his first 79 Sprint Cup career starts. Bowman eventually led a race-high 194 laps in the race.

After being at the front of the field from the green flag, Bowman finally yielded the lead on Lap 93 to Logano. Johnson then took the lead on Lap 120, Bowman regained it for one lap on Lap 133, and then Logano went back ahead when he beat all other cars off pit road during caution on Lap 134.

HOW LOGANO WON: When Matt Kenseth spun on Lap 318, Logano was declared the leader. Logano then held on through the ensuing restart on Lap 323 all the way to the checkered flag to reach the Championship 4 round for the second time in three years.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE? Runner-up Kyle Busch did what he needed to do to hold off Kevin Harvick and advance to defend last year’s championship. Also, kudos to Alex Bowman for his effort and Kyle Larson for their strong runs.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE? Kenseth saw his championship bid go up in smoke with his wreck on Lap 316. He finished 20th … Austin Dillon finished 39th, while Martin Truex Jr. finished last.

NOTABLE: Greg Biffle finished 16th in his 500th consecutive Sprint Cup race … Canadian driver D.J. Kennington finished 35th in his first career Sprint Cup race … Tony Stewart finished 15th in the second-to-last race of his Sprint Cup career.

QUOTE OF THE DAY No. 1: “I’m speechless right now.  I feel like I just won the Daytona 500 again. What a special day.” — Race winner Joey Logano.

QUOTE OF THE DAY No. 2: “We have to put our arms around Matt and let him know how much we care for him.” – Team owner Joe Gibbs on Matt Kenseth’s late wreck that eliminated him from the last round of the Chase.

WHAT’S NEXT: The season championship will be decided Sunday, Nov. 20, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Green flag is slated to drop shortly after 2:30 pm ET.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.