AVONDALE, Ariz. — The middle-aged man without a ride for 2018 drove a dagger through the heart of the youngster expected to shine in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for years to come.
With nine laps left in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway, 45-year-old Matt Kenseth passed 21-year-old Chase Elliott for the lead and pulled away to win for the first time since the July 2016 New Hampshire race, breaking a 51-event winless string.
Kenseth’s victory, the 39th of his career, deprived Elliott of a chance to run for the series championship next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway and kept Chevrolet out of the title race. The win also was a gift to Brad Keselowski, who survived a lackluster afternoon with enough points to advance to the Championship 4 event.
Keselowski, who muscled an ill-handling car to a 16th-place finish and beat polesitter Ryan Blaney (17th Sunday) for the final berth in the championship race, moves on to Homestead to battle Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch for the series title.
Truex took third Sunday in front of Erik Jones and Harvick. Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top 10.
Jimmie Johnson, who needed a victory to advance to Homestead, blew his right front tire and crashed out of the event on Lap 150, ending the day in 39th place.