Dale Jr. wins Phoenix as trio nab last Chase spots

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have advanced to the finale of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship after surviving a long Sunday that ended with a rain-shortened race at Phoenix International Raceway.

The race was delayed nearly seven hours by a series of storms that forced the penultimate race in the Chase to start under the lights at the mile oval. More rain led to the race’s being called after 218 laps, with Harvick second behind winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Busch fourth and Truex 14th.

Harvick, Busch and Truex will join Jeff Gordon next weekend in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with the series title decided by finishing order among the four drivers.

Carl Edwards finished 12th, which left him five points out of the final spot in the Chase finale. Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski also missed the finale.

Gordon was the only driver with a spot at Homestead locked up before Sunday’s race, thanks to his win at Martinsville two weeks ago. That left seven drivers fighting for three spots, including three sets of teammates.

The long rain delay included numerous stops and starts around pit road, with drivers going on to their cars a couple times, only to be forced back into the garage area.

Once the race started, Kurt Busch put himself in a difficult position, forced to the back after he was penalized for jumping the start. He worked his way back toward the front and reached the top 10 near the race’s midpoint.

That put all the Chase contenders near the front, hoping they could make the move to get into the top four with Gordon.

The Chase pressure ratcheted up with about 120 laps left when Joey Gase slid into the wall, causing a caution.

With rain moving toward the track, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex were in the final four, and Edwards was five points out of the final spot.

The caution stretched out as crews tried to clean the track, and the drivers were held in a yellow holding pattern as rain started to fall at PIR.

“We can’t let it end like this,” Edwards told his team on the radio.

The cars ran under caution for several more laps before being sent to pit road as the track was red flagged.

The rain picked up after that, which ended the race with Earnhardt in the lead, three drivers happy and four others wondering what might have been had the race continued.

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