Matt Kenseth plays spoiler, wins Phoenix playoff race

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Matt Kenseth passed Chase Elliott with 10 laps to go and held on to win the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

Kenseth, 45, ended a 51-race winless streak. The win came a week after Kenseth announced he did not have a ride secured for 2018 and that he would be taking a break from NASCAR racing.

It is his 39th Cup win.

“Yeah, baby!” Kenseth screamed on his radio after crossing the finish line. “I’m going to be the biggest crybaby you’ve ever seen.”

Kenseth beat Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick.

“I don’t know what to say except for thank the Lord,” a tearful Kenseth told NBC at the start-finish line. “Had an amazing journey. I know I’m a big baby right now. Just got one race left. Everybody dreams of going out a winner. We won today. No one can take that from us. It was a heck of a race with Chase there. Golly, thanks to DeWalt, Circle K, Toyota, all our sponsors and (Joe Gibbs Racing) for a great five years. It’s been quite a journey.”

The win is Kenseth’s first since the July New Hampshire race last season. He had nine top fives this season entering Sunday.

“The way this year was going I wasn’t really expecting to win today,” Kenseth said. “This is a special one, it means a lot.”

Brad Keselowski clinched the final spot in the next week’s championship race. He joins Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex.

MORE: Tears of joy for Matt Kenseth in Phoenix win.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points Standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Chase Elliott led 34 laps before he was passed for the last time by Kenseth. Elliott finished second for the seventh time in his career, which ties the Cup record for runner-up finishes without a win. … Martin Truex Jr. finished in the top three in every Round of 8 race … Erik Jones earned his fifth top five of the year. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th after bouncing back from a flat tire early in the race.

WHO HAD A BAD A DAY: Denny Hamlin’s day and championship hopes ended when he hit the wall in Turn 3 after losing a tire with 38 laps to go. The blown tire was caused by damage from contact with Chase Elliott a few laps before when they were fighting for third. … Kyle Larson finished last with his fourth DNF in a row after blowing an engine on Lap 104 …. Jimmie Johnson’s chances at a record eighth Cup title ended when he lost a tire and hit the turn 3 wall on the last lap of Stage 2. He finished 39thTrevor Bayne finished 38th after a hard hit into the outside wall on the front stretch on Lap 229.

NOTABLE: The race was placed under the red flag for five minutes and three seconds on Lap 254 for two fires that broke out in the SAFER barrier from brake rotors off Chris Buescher’s car.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We probably had great speed at Martinsville, great execution at Texas and great luck today. You’d like to have all three of them on the same day.” – Brad Keselowski after clinching a spot in the championship race.

WHAT’S NEXT: The championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 19 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ends the season No. 1

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The 2019 season is over and Kyle Busch is the NASCAR Cup champion. And not surprisingly, the younger Busch brother also ends the season as No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

Busch received 39 of 40 possible points to take the No. 1 spot, followed by the other three Championship 4 contenders: Martin Truex Jr. (35 points), and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick (tied for third place with 28 points each).

The biggest surprises in this week’s standings were Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick in fifth and Gander Outdoors Truck Series champ Matt Crafton in sixth.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Finally gets that second title. Last week: Second.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (35 points): Inexcusable pit mistake left him as the championship runner-up for the second year in a row. Last week: Fourth.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin (28 points): Came so close to his first championship, only to be fall short yet again. Could this be the closest he’ll ever get? Last week: First.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (28 points): Needed a bit more help than he got going against the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut. Still, a very strong season regardless. Last week: Third.

5. Tyler Reddick (18 points): It’s hard enough to win one championship, but back-to-back championships with two different teams? Should be a force to be reckoned with when he moves to Cup next season. Last week: Unranked.

6. Matt Crafton (14 points): Wins the championship without even winning a race (in fact, his last win was more than two years ago). Thrived on his underdog status and handled the championship race pressure perfectly. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Finished 11th or better, including a win at Talladega, in five of the last six playoff races. Last week: Fifth.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (11 points): Ends year with four consecutive top 10s, but fell short when it counted: to make it to the championship round and try to defend last year’s title. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 8. Erik Jones (11 points): Ends season with four top 10s in last five races. That bodes well for next season. Last week: Seventh.

10. Christopher Bell (6 points): Missed his chance to add an Xfinity title to his prior Truck championship. Still, with eight wins, had an outstanding season. Up next: a promotion to the Cup Series. Last week: 10th.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Larson (5 points), Clint Bowyer (5 points), Cole Custer (4 points), Austin Hill (2 points), Brad Keselowski (1 point), Brett Moffitt (1 point).

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

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Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from Homestead-Miami Speedway

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NASCAR issued four fines and one suspension for lug nut violations during its championship weekend in Miami.

Cup Series

Mike Wheeler, crew crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 95 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

Xfinity Series

Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Ford, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Truck Series

Steve Lane, the owner of On Point Motorsports and crew chief on Danny Bohn‘s No. 30 Toyota, was fined $5,000 and suspended one points race for two unsecured lug nuts. The No. 30 truck competed part-time this season and made 16 starts. The team told NBC Sports it will not appeal the penalty.

Trip Bruce III, crew chief on Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut.

Other

NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to Jeffrey Schmidt for violating its substance abuse policy.

Truck Series gets minor name change for 2020

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Four days after the end of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, NASCAR announced the series will receive a minor name change for the 2020 season.

The series will be called the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series when the season starts in February at Daytona International Speedway.

This is the second name change for the series in two years.

This season saw the name change from the Camping World Truck Series, which had been the title from 2009-2018.

Gander Outdoors and Camping World are owned by the same company.

Next year will also see a different name for the Cup Series. With the series going to a new sponsorship model, it will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.