Denny Hamlin wins Stage 2 of Cup playoff race at Phoenix Raceway


Denny Hamlin dominated to win Stage 2 of the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

Hamlin, who is seeking to qualifying for the final spot in next week’s championship race, led every green flag lap in the 75-lap stage.

Hamlin led Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer across the line.

The stage ended under caution after defending champion Jimmie Johnson blew a tire and hit the wall in Turn 3 on the last lap. Johnson entered the race last in the playoff standings, 51 points back from Brad Keselowski for the final transfer spot. Johnson will not have a chance to win a record eighth Cup title next week.

“Hate it for this team, they’ve worked so hard all year long and I’m proud of their efforts,” Johnson told NBCSN. “We’ll come back next year and try real hard.”

Johnson will finish 39th.

Keselowski finished the stage in 13th. He entered the race holding on to the final transfer spot, 19 points ahead of Hamlin. In the first two stages, Hamlin earned 19 stage points, while Keselowski scored none for the second race in a row.

Keselowski and Hamlin are tied entering the final stage of the race.

Kyle Larson, who led 11 laps and won Stage 1, exited the race on Lap 104 with an engine problem. It’s his fourth DNF in a row and his second for losing an engine.

“It’s unfortunate,” Larson told NBCSN. “Crappy way to end the season. Thought I had by far the best car here today. I was really happy about that. … Definitely the best car I had at Phoenix.”

Larson finished 39th at Kansas after engine problems and 37th at Martinsville and Texas after wrecks. He will finish 40th today.

The race is scheduled to end on Lap 312.