Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway

Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway

Chase Elliott, left, and Jimmie Johnson talk inside the garage area before practice for the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Avondale, Ariz.

BIG HIT: Trevor Bayne had a tire go down in the third stage of the race that caused his auto to veer directly into the wall.

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. Elliott admitted he raced Hamlin aggressively, same as Hamlin did when he wrecked Elliott from the lead at Martinsville. Hamlin dropped to seventh, just ahead of Keselowski, before the tire blew. Elliott needed to score his first career win Sunday to advance.

Those four claimed four of the 16 playoff positions this year, with Elliott and Blaney reaching the final eight.

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After Lap 235 of 312: A caution from Trevor Bayne's Ford slamming the wall led to Denny Hamlin's first real problem Sunday. Hamlin hesitated pulling out of his pit stop, not getting a signal when pit service was completed. The issue cost Hamlin one spot, as Matt Kenseth edged Hamlin off pit road for the lead.

Hamlin leads in the final 100 laps, though the cars have not yet pitted in the final segment. He entered the race 19 points behind Brad Keselowski, who is fourth in the standings.

Elliott has helped usher in a changing of the guard in NASCAR, joining fellow young drivers Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson in taking the sport into the future.

Kyle Larson and Hamlin were stage winners in the first 150 laps of the race, with Larson taking the first 75-lap stage and Hamlin the second. The 10 points he earns for that, plus the nine he received for coming second in Stage 1, closed the entire points gap that Keselowski had coming into the race.

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In total, Toyotas held the top five spots at the end of Stage 2. Keselowski will start 12th.

Needing a win to advance to the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, Hamlin took his vehicle to the garage. He also led more than half of the opening stage. Keselowski ran outside the top 15 the entire stage and did not earn any points.

Stage 2: Hamlin dominated the second stage and cruised to a stage win without any fuss. Had Elliott hung on for the win, he would have qualified for the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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