Denny Hamlin won the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, on Sunday to advance to the championship four of the 2019 NASCAR playoffs.
Hamlin joined Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, who earned victories in the round of eight, and Kyle Busch, who claimed the final championship spot on points.
This is Hamlin's sixth victory of the season and his second career checkered flag at ISM Raceway.
Bluegreen Vacations 500 Leaderboard
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Kyle Larson
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Erik Jones
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Joey Logano
10. Brad Keselowski
Phoenix was the scene for one of Hamlin's biggest professional disappointments. The points leader going into the 2010 Kobalt Tools 500, he ended the race in 12th and was runner-up to Jimmie Johnson at the end of the year. That was as close as the 38-year-old has gotten to winning the NASCAR Cup championship.
It looked like a tactical gamble could doom Hamlin once again.
Inside the final 10 laps, the No. 11 car headed to pit road during a caution to prepare for the final sprint. Hamlin only took two fresh tires, which left some to wonder whether he'd be able to hold off Busch and Ryan Blaney on the restart.
Busch and Blaney went low in an attempt to pass Hamlin on Turn 2, but he remained in first on the outside.
From there, Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, settled into second and Blaney into third as neither gained ground on the leader. Hamlin cruised to the finish line with minimal drama.
The result was likely a little more satisfying for Hamlin knowing he knocked Joey Logano out of the postseason hunt.
Hamlin and Logano got into a shoving match after the First Data 500 two races ago. Logano had been frustrated after Hamlin forced him into the wall in the final stage. Dave Nichols Jr., a crew member for Logano, earned a suspension after dragging Hamlin to the ground during the altercation.
Logano led 93 laps Sunday but ended up in ninth. Knowing Hamlin denied him an opportunity to defend his points title will be a bitter pill to swallow.
Trailing Logano by 78 points for fourth place entering the event, Chase Elliott needed a victory in order to move on to the next round.
The No. 9 car experienced mechanical issues early in the race that eventually necessitated a trip to the garage. Elliott's day ended after 165 laps, ensuring a last-place finish and ending his playoff chase.
That left Hamlin, Logano, Busch, Blaney and Larson fighting for the final two spots.
The respective performances of Hamlin and Busch made things pretty straightforward as the day wore on. Hamlin was holding strong at the top of the field, and Busch would round out the round out the championship four barring an unforeseen catastrophe.
The restart provided some late intrigue because Hamlin would've fallen out of the top four altogether if Busch or Blaney had passed him for the lead.
But the 14-year Cup veteran remains in contention for his first title as the Cup calendar ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17 for the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Hamlin has two wins in 14 tries in Miami, but Harvick's average finish of 6.56 is the best at the track among the four playoff drivers, per DriverAverages.com.