By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — The desperation of NASCAR’s playoffs erupted Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, the place non-playoff driver Alex Bowman spun Denny Hamlin to arrange an additional time victory in a wild end for the ultimate spot within the championship finale.
Hamlin led 103 laps and was out entrance with six to go when Bowman, who was not eligible to maneuver on to the championship, wiggled and bumped Hamlin out of his manner. It despatched the race into additional time and Bowman held off Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski to win.
The victory by Bowman prevented one of the opposite playoff drivers from successful the race and locking up a slot in subsequent Sunday within the winner-take-all championship at sold-out Phoenix Raceway. A victory by Busch or Keselowski would have pushed both into the finale.
Kyle Larson, reigning champion Chase Elliott, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. will race for the title in a matchup of a pair of Chevrolets from Hendrick Motorsports towards a pair of Toyotas from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Ford was locked out of the championship when Keselowski and Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano didn’t advance.
It was Bowman’s fourth win of the season and he hoped to have fun with a backward victory lap round NASCAR’s oldest and shortest speedway. But a livid Hamlin drove his Toyota to the frontstretch celebration and blocked the Hendrick Chevrolet from doing correct doughnuts.
Bowman insisted the contact with Hamlin was unintentional.
“I simply acquired free in, I acquired in too deep, knocked him out of the best way and actually let him have the lead again,” Bowman mentioned. “For anyone that wishes to suppose I used to be attempting to crash him, that clearly actually wasn’t that case contemplating I gave up the lead at Martinsville to provide it again to him.”
But Bowman was referring to an earlier incident, not the contact that absolutely spun Hamlin’s automotive and dropped him to a Twenty fourth-place end.
“He’s been on the opposite aspect of that. He’s crashed guys right here for wins. I hate doing it… I simply acquired in, acquired beneath him, spun him out,” Bowman mentioned. “Regardless, we get a free grandfather clock, which is fairly particular.”
Martinsville presents its race winners with a conventional grandfather clock thought-about one of essentially the most coveted trophies in NASCAR.
Hamlin already has 5 clocks, and nonetheless superior into the championship on factors. But he was incensed with Bowman, and Hamlin’s his crew warned him over the radio to be good as he drove his Toyota on to the entrance grille of Bowman’s Chevy.
“He’s only a hack, simply an absolute hack who will get his ass kicked each week by his teammates,” mentioned Hamlin, a Virginia native who didn’t have the home-crowd help. The well-filled grandstands erupted in cheers when Bowman spun Hamlin, and loudly booed him when he was interviewed over the general public deal with system.
Either manner, he superior and can attempt for a fourth time to win his first Cup title. Both he and Larson, the heavy favourite and a nine-race winner, have by no means received a NASCAR championship. Elliott is the reigning champion and Truex, who needed to claw for each on-track place Sunday to cease teammate Busch from bumping him out of the finale, has one earlier title.
UP NEXT: The championship finale Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, the place Elliott received the race final 12 months to say his first Cup championship. Truex received in March.
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