Kyle Busch took a dominant vehicle to victory in the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix on Sunday, but he was not the only victor.
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson, both already eliminated from the playoffs, finished second and third on Sunday. "If I could have been to somebody's outside off 2, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead, and I just got cleaned out". But still, Almirola could hold his head high knowing the position his team ended up in with a vehicle he said shouldn't have been able to battle for the win in the penultimate race of the season.
Or maybe, Almirola simply got beat by one of the best driver-crew chief tandems of this generation and one that is heading to the championship race for the fourth season in a row.
Tony Stewart said the elimination race at ISM Raceway, where all four of Stewart-Haas Racing's cars were fighting for a maximum of two places in the Championship 4, was a much harder day and more stressful than he had anticipated. Kurt Busch also was penalized early in the race for passing the pace vehicle.
"I just needed to get my auto set on the bottom and try to get everything so that i could get a good exit off the off the corner", Harvick said, "And that was really all I was anxious about". Harvick has had a career year in 2018 winning eight races. Busch will certainly be aggressive, so it could pay off if he avoids a wreck or pit mistake.
"Yeah, I couldn't really drive my pit box out there and make anything happen", Stevens said.
Sunday's Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway was part of learning experience for the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, who had a breakout year with three race victories this season.
Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick has driven through a pack of traffic after falling to 30th and down a lap because of a flat tire. But he's a nine-time victor at this track, was fastest in practice, started on the pole and led the first 72 laps before his tire went flat. Keselowski stayed in first through the ensuing green flag before another yellow came out on lap 264 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked, his rear end catching fire and spilling fluids. When Denny Hamlin ran Kurt Busch into the outside wall after a restart on Lap 269, Elliott caught Busch's No. 41 Ford on the rebound and sustained enough damage to lose three laps and a title shot. Denny Hamlin, trying to keep his streak of winning at least once in every season, aggressively tried to dart to the front, and while doing so shoved Busch's vehicle into the wall. As Busch's vehicle ricocheted back into traffic, he tagged Chase Elliott, ending Elliott's bid to race his way into the finale.
Alex Bowman then spun, NASCAR again stopped the race for a cleanup, and Almirola used the sequence to make his play for the victory.
Kevin Harvick can't blame the pit guns or anything else for his misfortunes this time around.
Almirola dove to the bottom of the track to slip past Harvick and move into second.
Kyle Busch was dominant on his way to victory at the Can-Am 500 in Phoenix.
"It was pretty straightforward for us", Truex said.
Harvick's victory at Texas was his series-leading eighth in 2018. He wound up 37th with an early exit, but didn't think it would hurt his momentum for the championship. You look at all the teams we're racing and they've got four, five, six, seven years working together, so what we've accomplished in one year is a hell of a lot.
"These things are out of your control, so it doesn't really knock your confidence down, " Logano said.
Logano believes he's the favorite to capture the title, because winning the opening race of this round to qualify for Homestead gave Team Penske two additional weeks to focus on the main event.
He won at Homestead to claim his first Cup title the next week.