Carl Edwards claimed his fifth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season at Phoenix on Saturday, while Kyle Busch all but clinched the series title.
From second place on the grid, Edwards led the race for the first time on lap 13 after overtaking polesitter Denny Hamlin on the first restart. Hamlin eventually reclaimed the lead until Edwards had another shot at him on the restart following the third caution of the day.
Once up front again, the Roush Fenway driver stayed in control and went on to take a comfortable win – the 25th of his Nationwide Series career. However, his championship hopes are virtually over now, as Busch just needs to start the season finale at Homestead in order to win his maiden NASCAR title.
"Well, we kept [Kyle Busch] from having the trophy for one more week," said Edwards. "There's something to be said about that. In the end you race for a couple of different things. You race for the championship for sure, but you really race for wins and the win feels good, no matter what.
"I'm proud of my guys. And those guys on the 18 team, they've have done a really good job every one. If they do seal [the title] next week, like it looks, they're going to deserve it. They've performed very well."
Kevin Harvick finished second, coming close to scoring back-to-back wins after taking victory on Friday night in the Truck Series race at Phoenix, where his Kevin Harvick Inc. teammate Ron Hornaday won the series title.
Reed Sorenson claimed yet another good result by finishing third for Braun Racing, while Clint Bowyer recovered from an early incident with Busch to finish fourth.
The points leader hit on some early drama when he spun on lap nine at Turn 2 after losing control of his car, hitting both the outside and inside walls, although without extensive damage. Bowyer spun beside him but just managed to avoid hitting him.
The Joe Gibbs racer managed to remain on the lead lap while his team carried out the necessary repairs in the pits and, despite a less than perfect car, he was able to move up in the order again. He would eventually get in a position to clinch the title, but then he lost ground in the closing laps and dropped down to ninth place at the flag.
Earlier this week, Busch was given a 25-point penalty for a technical infraction at Texas, a punishment that actually prevented him from celebrating the title at Phoenix.
Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five after having yet another controversial run-in with Denny Hamlin. On the penultimate restart of the race, Hamlin made contact with Keselowski while battling for position, and the JR Motorsports driver immediately returned the favor, getting Hamlin loose and then tapping him again and causing him to spin.
"On the restart there, from what I can tell, Denny got into the back of me and pushed me up the track," said Keselowski."I was going to return the favor and when he did it to me I saved it, when I did it to him, he didn't save it. We just got in a pushing match."
Hamlin, who could only manage to finish 12th after his spin, warned Keselowski he could receive payback next weekend at Homestead.
"I'm just happy I'm signed up for next weekend's Nationwide race and you know, in turn, there's a lot of guys who owe him," said Hamlin. "There's a lot of guys who have a lot of chips that they're going to cash in. I'm just going to be the first in that window. I'll take care of him. I've got him."
The two drivers later met at the Nationwide truck but their exchange did not go any further.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Carl Edwards Ford 200
2. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 200
3. Reed Sorenson Toyota 200
4. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 200
5. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 200
6. David Ragan Ford 200
7. Matt Kenseth Ford 200
8. Mike Bliss Toyota 200
9. Kyle Busch Toyota 200
10. Steve Wallace Chevrolet 200
11. Jason Keller Ford 200
12. Denny Hamlin Toyota 200
13. James Buescher Chevrolet 200
14. Trevor Bayne Toyota 200
15. Scott Wimmer Chevrolet 200
16. Justin Allgaier Dodge 200
17. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 200
18. David Reutimann Toyota 200
19. Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet 200
20. Michael Annett Toyota 198
21. Tony Raines Chevrolet 198
22. Mike Wallace Chevrolet 197
23. John Wes Townley Ford 197
24. Kevin Conway Chevrolet 196
25. Michael McDowell Dodge 195
26. John Borneman III Ford 194
27. Jason Leffler Toyota 187
28. Eric McClure Ford 158
29. Jeremy Clements Chevrolet 96
30. Paul Menard Ford 95
31. Nick Joanides Chevrolet 95
32. Ken Butler III Chevrolet 86
33. Josh Wise Chevrolet 65
34. Mark Green Chevrolet 49
35. Danny O'Quinn Jr Chevrolet 29
36. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 26
37. Kevin Hamlin Ford 17
38. Alex Tagliani Dodge 14
39. Terry Cook Chevrolet 12
40. Johnny Chapman Chevrolet 10
41. Casey Atwood Chevrolet 4
42. Dennis Setzer Dodge 3
43. Chris Cook Toyota 1