Denny Hamlin returns to Championship 4 for first time since 2014 after dull Phoenix duel

Photo via Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin is the only one enjoying his day at ISM Raceway as he won the Bluegreen Vacations 500. This was his 6th win of the 2019 season and he solidified his spot in the Championship 4 for Homestead for the first time since the inaugural version of the playoffs in 2014.

I, honestly, do not know what to say about this race because nothing really happened. Hamlin would steal stage one after a late caution and Logano would dominate stage two after a strong battle for second between Chase Elliott and Hamlin.

Elliott’s title hopes came to an end as he would blow a tire and crash in turns 1 and 2 that took him out of the race. From there on, it was all Hamlin. Throughout the third stage, Logano would continuously fade and eventually fall one lap down. After the race, he said he still has no idea what adjustment was made that tightened up the car. He said it might have been tire pressure but not too sure.

However, with 8 laps to go, NASCAR decides to call a caution as John Hunter Nemechek blew a tire and hit the wall. NASCAR just had to do it to bring some sort of life back into this terrible race. On the final pit stops, both Hamlin and Ryan Blaney came out first but only decided to take two tires while the rest of the lead lap cars took four. On the final restart with three to go, Hamlin was able to hold the lead on the outside as Kyle Busch made it three-wide to put Blaney in a hole in terms of aerodynamics. Hamlin was able to clear everyone off the backstretch and would cruise for the final two laps to victory.

Hamlin joins Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. for a chance to win the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday. This is the first time that three teammates have competed for the championship under this playoff format. This is the third straight year that a combination of Harvick, Truex Jr., and Busch have reached the Championship 4.

As for ISM Raceway, a lot needs to change to get fans excited for this race being the championship next year. There are no excuses for a track this unique to put on a bad show. The new aero package has been a nightmare for these smaller tracks and that, as of right now, is not going to change as NASCAR is expected to keep the same package for 2020.

If this holds true, next year’s championship race may be the one race to forget.

 

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