Phoenix Checkered and Black Flags

M.Kenseth

There are lots of good and bad performances to decipher from the weekend at Phoenix Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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There are lots of good and bad to decipher from the weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

Checkered Flags 

Matt Kenseth
There hasn’t been a winner’s interview more emotional than the one Kenseth gave after his stirring win in Sunday’s Can-Am 500. Somehow, Kenseth does not have a ride for next year and his Phoenix victory may well be his last at NASCAR’s top tier. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, hands down, and Sunday’s Phoenix win is a fitting cherry on an incredible NASCAR sundae for Kenseth.

Brad Keselowski
It wasn’t easy, but Keselowski secured the final spot in next weekend’s Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It took problems for Denny Hamlin to officially get Keselowski into the title picture in Miami, but the Team Penske driver did what he had to do to advance.

Chase Elliott
Yes, he finished second for the seventh time in his young Cup Series career and missed out on a shot to run for the title. But Elliott again proved he’s growing into a big-time driver with the way he handled himself in an aggressive battle with Hamlin for position. It added to his growing stature as the sport’s next most popular driver when Dale Earnhardt Jr. retires at season’s end.

Erik Jones
The heir apparent to Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing ride next year continued to show his mettle as he winds down his Furniture Row Racing tenure with another top-five performance in Phoenix. Jones has quietly turned in a solid rookie season and had a great Phoenix weekend, both in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race and Sunday’s Cup Series headliner.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
An unheralded run for Stenhouse on Sunday gave the Roush Fenway Racing driver a pair of top-10 Phoenix finishes this year.

Black Flags 

Denny Hamlin
He had it and he lost it. Hamlin looked to be well on his way to a Championship 4 berth until he got locked into a battle with Elliott that ended with contact, a cut tire, a trip into the wall and the end of his championship aspirations.

Jimmie Johnson
A cut tire was also the culprit in Johnson’s bitter end in Phoenix that also put an end to his quest for a record eighth championship. He'll go to Homestead only in the spoiler's role.

Kyle Larson
In 2015-2016, Larson had a combined seven DNFs. This year, his blown engine on Sunday at Phoenix was No. 7 of 2017. Larson's race ended the same way the three before did, with an early exit.

Trevor Bayne
A season that started with promise has gone sour for the Roush Fenway Racing driver. His latest disappointment came Sunday when he cut a tire and slammed the wall hard. Thankfully, Bayne was uninjured.

Chris Buescher
The JTG Daugherty Racing driver suffered the same fate as Bayne but with one caveat. Buescher’s accident sent a piece of brake rotor into the SAFER Barrier, triggering not one but two small fires that necessitated a red flag before they were extinguished.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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