But on Sunday, Elliott got his payback. kind of.
"Just got one race left and everybody dreams of going out a victor", a tearful Kenseth said after climbing from his Toyota. Sunday's victory could easily be the last of his career, and next weekend's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway could be his last altogether. At Phoenix, he pinched Hamlin up into the wall and grabbed the lead, but couldn't hold off Kenseth, who celebrated an emotional win in what could be his penultimate Cup Series race.
35 laps to go: Denny Hamlin's chances of advancing go up in smoke as his tire blows and his vehicle slams the wall. By virtue of his victory, Brad Keselowski, who finished the race in 15th, also clinched his place in the Championship 4. He will join the three drivers who already had clinched - Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick - in a first-to-the-line championship battle on November 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
But Kenseth's auto came to life within the final 15 laps.
At Martinsville, contact from Hamlin to Elliott's back bumper sent Elliott into the wall.
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Elliott almost had a victory that would have sent him to the final four at Martinsville two weeks ago, but was bumped out of the lead by Denny Hamlin.
"I'm going to race guys how they race me and keep a smile on my face regardless", Elliott said.
"It just proves to the people who thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing under the same circumstances", Hamlin told NBC Sports after the wreck. "I got into him and he chose to retaliate".
The brake rotor on Buescher's vehicle exploded and pieces landed inside the energy-absorbing SAFER barrier.
Hamlin erased all of Keselowski's points lead following the second stage. He ran down Elliott and passed him easily to cruise to the 39th win of his career.
After the red flag to extinguish the fire, Elliott started marching to the front and had his run-in with Hamlin. The hot parts caused the Styrofoam to catch fire in two different parts of the wall. The highest finishing driver of the four contenders will win the championship.
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