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NASCAR at Phoenix 2018 Results: Kyle Busch Collects 8th Win of the Year

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2018

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 11:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway on November 11, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kyle Busch won the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, on Sunday.

It's Busch's eighth win of the 2018 season, and the result guarantees him passage to the championship round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Series playoffs.

Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. make up the four-driver playoff field heading into the final race.

Here's a look at the top 10 finishers from Sunday's race, with the full leaderboard available on NASCAR's official site.

           

Can-Am 500 Standings

1. Kyle Busch

2. Brad Keselowski

3. Kyle Larson

4. Aric Almirola

5. Kevin Harvick

6. Jamie McMurray

7. Matt Kenseth

8. Austin Dillon

9. William Byron

10. Bubba Wallace

      

Busch led 117 of the 312 laps on the day. His win was relatively drama-free, as he never looked to be in danger before the checkered flag waved. Despite multiple cautions and delays, Busch fended off the competition.

The biggest story to follow was whether Aric Almirola could steal the victory late and punch his ticket to the championship round. A first-place finish was required for Almirola to keep his title hopes alive, and he at least put himself in a position to potentially do just that.

Almirola was in second place running alongside Busch on a restart with 12 laps remaining. Almost immediately, though, things started slipping away. Busch surged ahead of the field, with Almirola slipping to the outside and letting Brad Keselowski move into second.

To come this far and fall short is undoubtedly disappointing, but staying in the playoff race this late into the season represents progress for a driver who hadn't finished higher than 16th prior to this season.

Kaitlyn Vincie @kaitlynvincie

Aric Almirola has a lot to hang his hat on. What a year it’s been for them, a fun team to watch throughout the season.

Harvick entered the day in fourth place, three points ahead of Kurt Busch. That slim lead left him with little margin for error Sunday.

Harvick started from the pole after hitting a top speed of 139.340 mph during qualifying and remained in the lead to open the first stage before a blown tire forced him to pit road.

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

Major championship implications! Kevin Harvick has a flat tire, handing the Stage 1 win to Chase Elliott, presented by @Kroger #ClickList. https://t.co/f8zI6H7LEq

Harvick slowly worked his way back up the field and was in a back-and-forth struggle with Kurt Busch over the final playoff bid for much of the day.

His fortunes took a turn for the better inside the final 50 laps. Following a restart in the final stage, Denny Hamlin made contact with Busch, sending him into the outside wall. The No. 41 car then T-boned the No. 11 car before sliding to the left and hitting the right side of Chase Elliott.

Harvick couldn't have asked for better luck. He avoided any damage and saw two of his playoff rivals taken out of the equation.

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

Replay: Hamlin got into Kurt Busch while racing for lead, Busch bounced off the wall, got into Hamlin, turned Hamlin, Kurt lost control and came across track to hit Elliott. Meanwhile, Harvick got through the whole thing and is in great shape for Homestead now.

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

No more playoff drama left to be had in this race, it seems. Kevin Harvick is in perfect position to advance now. Only thing that would thwart that is an Almirola win (Almirola is sixth now).

Clint Bowyer needed even more to break in his favor in order to move into the top four Sunday. His 4,052 points were the fewest of the eight remaining playoff drivers entering the Can-Am 500.

Like Harvick, Bowyer blew a tire. Unlike Harvick, he suffered far too much damage to his car to return to the race. Immediately after the tire went, Bowyer's back end slammed into the outside wall.

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

Clint Bowyer will not make the Championship 4 at @HomesteadMiami He's eliminated from the #NASCARPlayoffs after this crash at @ISMRaceway. #GoClintGo https://t.co/JIutz0Byqw

The No. 14 car headed for the garage in the second stage, and Bowyer's race was over after 133 laps. He finished in 35th place.

Sticking with the theme, Logano lost his left rear tire and spun out in the second stage. He attempted to continue racing but got no help from his car and wound up as the worst performer among the eight playoff drivers (37th), having completed 95 laps.

Logano had little reason to dwell on the result, though. He was victorious in the First Data 500 on Oct. 28, which secured him a spot in the Championship 4. And because the scores are essentially reset ahead of the Ford EcoBoost 400, Logano wasn't punished for his wreck.

The calculus is straightforward from here. Busch, Harvick, Logano and Truex will drive for a title on Nov. 18 and whoever finishes the highest will be the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.