Championship Field is Set with Denny Hamlin’s Win at ISM Raceway

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 10: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on November 10, 2019, in Avondale, Arizona. Photo – Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

For one final time before the championship race, the NASCAR Cup Series round of eight drivers will square off at ISM Raceway. Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have already clinched a championship bid with their wins in the previous two races. The final two spots remained unknown with six drivers trying to earn a shot at the championship.

Kyle Busch brought the field to the green flag and jumped out to the early lead. Busch continued to log fast laps while his lead ballooned to over two seconds on second-place Denny Hamlin.

On lap 67, Ricky Stenhouse blew a tire in turn four and hit the outside wall for the first caution flag of the day. All the leaders came down pit road for servicing late in the stage. Denny Hamlin won the race off pit road, but Brad Keselowski and William Byron both stayed out to claim the front row.

On the restart, Keselowski led the field into turn one, but it was Denny Hamlin who made the pass for the lead coming onto the backstretch. Hamlin brought his racing machine around one final time to win stage one.

The race returned to green with Hamlin pacing the field, but Joey Logano made the quick pass for the lead. Hamlin fell back to fifth place, as Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Kyle Busch charge to the front. Hamlin made his way back into third place and fought Elliott for second-place. Meanwhile, Logano’s lead continued to increase over the rest of the field. No one could contend with Logano and he dominates the field for the win in stage two.

Joey Logano continued to lead into the final stage of the race, but it was Chase Elliott with a major problem. After battling hard for position, Elliott spins in turn two after cutting a tire. This ruined his racing day, and his hopes at a championship bid this year.

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano battled each other on the following restart, and Hamlin reclaimed the lead. As the race saw its longest green-flag run of the day, Hamlin’s lead grew to over eight seconds on the rest of the field.

With Hamlin charging along, Logano kept losing track position. On lap 247, the leaders hit pit road for green-flag stops. Denny Hamlin cycled back into the lead, with the remaining laps dwindling. A late caution waved with John Hunter Nemechek hitting the wall and failing to make it to pit road. This late caution brought a lot of drama into the final restart with three laps remaining.

All the leaders came down pit road, with Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney winning the race off pit road after a two-tire stop. Both of these drivers need to win in order to advance. Hamlin jumped out front, and Blaney followed into turn one. Kyle Busch passed Blaney heading onto the backstretch, and the race was basically over at that point. Hamlin paced the field, and Busch held his distance. Denny Hamlin advances with his win of the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway.

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. make up the championship contenders heading into one final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. All four are veterans, with all but Hamlin returning to the Championship 4 for another season in a row. Hamlin is racing for his first championship, and everyone else is racing for their second. Joe Gibbs Racing has placed three drivers into the championship round this year, and Harvick is the odd man out from Stewart Haas Racing. The final event of the 2019 season will definitely become a hard fought race with a lot on the line.