Denny Hamlin earned his fifth – and perhaps biggest – win of the season in Sunday’s Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas Speedway.
Even though Hamlin was already locked into the upcoming Round of 8 on points heading into Sunday’s race, taking the win gave him extra momentum for next Sunday’s start of the three-race semifinal round at Martinsville Speedway, where Hamlin has five career wins (tied for the most Cup wins he’s earned at a racetrack with Pocono Raceway).
Four drivers were eliminated from advancing into the next round Sunday: Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Alex Bowman and Kansas native Clint Bowyer. Keselowski got bottled up on the final restart and fell three positions in the final two laps, effectively going from being in the next round points-wise to being eliminated when he crossed the finish line.
“I got sandwiched … and just all bad, didn’t do a good enough job,” Keselowski said. “It is what it is. I don’t like it, but it’s (championship hopes) all over now.”
Chase Elliott finished second, earning enough points to pass Keselowski and move on to the Round of 8.
“We had to stay fighting in these things, especially these late-race restarts,” Elliott said. “You have to fight. … If you want to get to Homestead, that’s what you have to do. We’re excited to move on.”
Those eight drivers (and their unofficial reseeded points) are: Kyle Busch (4,046 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4,042), Denny Hamlin (4,037), Joey Logano (4,030), Kevin Harvick (4,028), Chase Elliott (4,024), Kyle Larson (4,011) and Ryan Blaney (4,009.