Panel of experts debates the hot topics in NASCAR MORE: NASCAR issues penalties for post-Texas tangle " Chase bubble " Clinching scenarios RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota 1. In doling out punishment for last Sunday night's post-race fight on pit road, was NASCAR too harsh, not harsh enough or did the punishment fit the crimes? Alan Cavanna: I think the right message was sent to the crew guys about getting involved and crossing some major lines. I was right there watching some of those guys throw wild haymakers. Some were just simple cheap shots. It was awful. Kenny, you were even closer! I can't imagine what you saw. Brad Norman : It was stout, but delivered a clear message -- you can't throw punches. Crew members are not like the goons in hockey. You don't bring them there to fight. And you don't use someone else's melee to settle an old score with a cheap shot. Kenny Bruce: My initial takeaway was "Huh. No penalties for anyone on the No. 2 team; no penalty for Mr. Harvick." Understandable that the drivers involved (Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski ) weren't penalized for what amounted to some pushing, shoving, grabbing. But when folks start throwing punches? Yeah, NASCAR should step in and dole out some punishment. I think they got it right. Norman : The fine of $25,000 is a lot to a crewmember -- to anyone, really, even Hendrick Motorsports (which will pay the fines). But I'd be willing to bet the crew guys were more upset with their respective suspensions. Can you imagine working literally years toward this moment, and not being able to see it through? Bruce: As for what I saw, Alan ... a big pile of folks jammed into a tiny space. It's not something I'd recommend. You pretty much go whichever way the pile decides. Cavanna: I learned not to mess with Kenny Bruce! Norman : We saw some dialogue on Twitter about this, Alan. If you're suspended for six races, someone else does your job for you. You're allowing someone to come in and do your own job. What if they do it better? Cavanna: Along with "don't throw punches," I hope it also sent the message to let the drivers hash it out between themselves. The drivers get themselves into these situations; they should be allowed to settle. Let the crew guys break it up if need be, but it shouldn't be a brawl. Bruce: I think you hit on a big difference there, Brad . Missing out on an opportunity to possibly celebrate a title? Yeah, that's large. Norman : I'm still not certain Brad Keselowski did anything wrong, either. Cavanna: Certainly not in the pits, Mr. Norman . As for what Brad did on the track ... it'll remain in the eye of the beholder. Bruce: As a former "driver," Alan, I'm sure you can understand Gordon's displeasure at the contact. But it seems a lot of folks believe Keselowski did nothing wrong. The guy was trying to win a race, and possibly a championship. No different from any of the others still in the Chase. Cavanna: I agree fully, Kenny. I liked Brad going for the win with everything on the line. But there are some online and in the garage who disagree. Bruce: And they were all crowded around the No. 2 car after the race, right? 2. With only 18 points separating the eight drivers in the Eliminator Round, who is the most likely and who is the least likely to advance into the Championship Round? Cavanna: Most likely, for me, are Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano . I picked Gordon to win on the FedEx Preview Show , and Logano just needs a top-10. I think he gets it. Norman : At this point, you're almost making a bold prediction by picking the four drivers who have been the best (and most consistent) all year -- the 2, 4, 22 and 24. Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick , in particular, face an uphill slog to advance. It's hard to imagine Harvick not being in contention for the win given his Phoenix dominance, and the same with Keselowski, really. That Talladega must-win situation in which the No. 2 team came through is still top of mind. Bruce: I don't think any one of the eight can go into Phoenix thinking "let's just get out of here with a decent finish." The points are just too close. Playing it safe, as Denny Hamlin noted Tuesday, means something like a 17th-place finish. And that's probably not going to put you in the final four. Cavanna: I think you're spot-on, Kenny. It's possible Harvick could have a top-five run and miss out if he doesn't win. Keselowski too. Harvick's six-point deficit doesn't sounds huge, but with the way everyone is running, it's nearly must-win. Norman : The guy most in trouble to me is Matt Kenseth , which may seem kind of strange. He's one point back of fourth-place Jeff Gordon , but Matt is just not very good at Phoenix. And there are a lot of guys in the Chase who are really good here. It's sort of the same situation with Ryan Newman , but Newman has a points cushion to fall back on where Kenseth has none. I really think either Harvick or Keselowski wins and shakes this thing up a little bit. I also expect Gordon to run well. Bruce: So I guess it's wide open. But I think Logano is the safest bet to advance, based on his current position and his team's consistency. The least likely would seem to be Carl Edwards, who isn't in the top four at the moment and hasn't had much of a Chase. Which of course means he'll probably win Phoenix. Norman : That Edwards still has a real shot is fascinating. He was so bad at Texas, yet logged a top-10 after all those cautions. And he's the only guy to have won at Phoenix other than Harvick in the past four races there. Cavanna: He came within a half-gallon of gas of sweeping last year, Kenny. Edwards to Homestead!!! Bruce: Good points, guys. And based on what we've seen so far in this year's Chase, I wouldn't feel comfortable locking anyone in, or out, going into this weekend's race. 3. Chase Elliott can wrap up the NNS championship this weekend. Is the 18-year-old ready to move up to the Sprint Cup Series in 2015? Cavanna: He's absolutely ready, but that doesn't mean he'll suffer from another year of Nationwide , I mean XFINITY Series, action. Norman : Not quite. He's obviously tremendously talented, and he's going to get great equipment when he makes the move, but I think one more full-time year in the XFINITY Series is the right move. Chase will win the title this year, and will be in a great spot to win it next year. That's Ricky Stenhouse-esque. When he moves up, though, I think he'll be like Kyle Larson right away -- competing for wins. Bruce: I think he's ready -- three wins and perhaps a championship look pretty good -- but that doesn't mean I think he'd step up and run as well. The competition gets a lot tougher at the top. Cavanna: His best wins have come against some of the best in Cup. And given the changes to the 2015 Cup cars, he may be more qualified than any Nationwide driver in recent years. Norman : It's really a pretty ridiculous story when you consider Chase didn't have a ride, in any series, at this point last year. Something came together with NAPA late, and here we are. I'm eager to see how Mr. Elliott does with a new crew chief in 2015 as well. Cavanna: If he didn't have a quality ride waiting for him in the future, I could see him easily moving up in 2015. But really, no need to rush if you don't have to. Bruce: Makes me think of Logano and getting tossed in the No. 20 car after Tony Stewart 's departure. Talented kid, but ... Norman : He's like that incredible pitching prospect in the farm system, Alan. Cavanna: I'll give you that, Brad . At Chase's young age, it can't hurt to learn about transition and working with different people. Going through that change, and succeeding, will make him better in the long run. Bruce: Mentioning Stenhouse, Larson, then there's Austin Dillon as well. Great NNS efforts. But even as well as Larson has run, he's not winning at Cup. Getting close, no doubt. I don't know how another year in the series would benefit Elliott. Would it hurt? No. He's still got a lot of years ahead of him. I think a lot of it just depends on what's available, team-wise and sponsor-wise. Norman : I think the most intriguing question is ... which ride does Chase get? Does Jeff Gordon retire? Does Kasey Kahne move on? Hendrick's stable is outstanding, but they have three guys 39 and older. Cavanna: If Hendrick could have five cars, I think Chase moves up immediately. Bruce: Seems pretty obvious he's destined for a Hendrick ride. A lot of talk about Gordon sticking around (sponsor signings) and a lot about Kahne being the odd-man out. Norman : Just think of the headline possibilities when a guy named Chase wins the Chase. I meant to say "if," and it came out "when." Maybe that's a sign. Bruce: They'll have to re-name it, or him. Anyone know his middle name? It isn't Sprint, is it? Cavanna: Chase Winston Grand Nationals Elliott Bruce: Wiki says William Clyde Elliott II Norman : First name William, but he goes by something else. I can respect that. Bruce: Not Billy Clyde? Cavanna: Wow. I learned something today. I think he should stick with Chase. Norman : That's the name they'll put on that championship trophy, at least. Bruce: Some great names out there ... but that's a discussion for another day. (Right William?) For now, it's on to Phoenix and another stop in the Chase. Not that Chase. Hold your punches, gentlemen. Cavanna: From someone who knows. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
From his first national series start to becoming the youngest national series champion Nov. 8: Elliott youngest to win national series title After three wins and numerous top-five and top-10 finishes in his rookie season, Chase Elliott earned the distinction of being the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion by clinching the title at Phoenix International Raceway . " Read more Nov. 1: Championship gets closer to Elliott's grasp Just one race before clinching the NASCAR Nationwide Series title at Phoenix, Elliott increased his points lead over Regan Smith to 48. Although it wasn't a win, it put the opportunity of earning a championship within reach. " Read more Sept. 27: Elliott keeps cool, overcomes Dover adversity Despite struggling at Dover after making contact with the wall and running into the back of another driver, Elliott rallied and emerged from the race with an expanded lead in the standings. " Read more Sept. 4: Breakout was rooted in Richmond Without NAPA pulling sponsorship from Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013, Elliott might not have raced in 2014. NASCAR.com's Brad Norman tells the story of how Elliott landed a spot in the No. 9. " Read more Aug. 18: Ernie Cope to be Elliott's crew chief in 2015 With Elliott's current crew chief Greg Ives moving to Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s pit box in 2015, JR Motorsports announced who will take over the championship team. " Read more July 31: Earnhardt: Hendrick has 'great plan' for Elliott JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr . discussed long-term goals for Chase Elliott and his NASCAR career. " Read more July 30: Greg Ives named Junior's 2015 crew chief Hendrick Motorsports announced that Elliott's crew chief will take over Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s pit box in 2015 -- leaving many to wonder who would fill the shoes of the No. 9 team's pit boss. " Read more July 19: Elliott wins at Chicagoland, moves in points lead Elliott's third win of 2014 vaulted him from third to the top of the Nationwide Series points standings, holding just a seven-point lead over teammate Regan Smith . " Read more May 17: Elliott: From graduation to his full-time job Graduation cap and gown by day, NAPA fire suit by night. Elliott graduated high school and made it to the track just in time for qualifying at Iowa Speedway . " Read more April 11: Elliott wins Nationwide Series race at Darlington Elliott spent his prom night just like he always imagined -- in Victory Lane at Darlington. Recap the rookie's memorable second win of 2014. " Read more April 4: First Nationwide win a coming-of-age moment With Elliott's first win of his Nationwide Series career, he claimed the points lead. Read what JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr . said about his rookie's first victory. " Read more Jan. 6: Dale Jr. tabs Elliott for No. 9 JRM ride With just one victory in the Truck Series, Elliott caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt Jr . like he had with Rick Hendrick, and his full-time deal with JR Motorsports and NAPA was announced. " Read more Sept. 1, 2013: Elliott spins Ty Dillon , gets first Truck win It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. Elliott's first and only Truck Series victory came at the cost of Ty Dillon 's run. Recap how the now Nationwide Series champ dared to get to Victory Lane. " Read more March 11, 2013: Sun rising over bright future The son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott was determined to make a name for himself in NASCAR -- and he started that journey when he made his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Martinsville in 2013 " Read more MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Get the latest Brad Keselowski news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Driver currently sits second in points despite no trips to Victory Lane in 2014 RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Of the eight drivers who advanced to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, three -- Jeff Gordon , Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth -- have won at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Among the five remaining drivers, two have multiple wins this year in Joey Logano (five) and Kevin Harvick (three). Out of the final three drivers, two have finished second in the final series standings before in Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin . That leaves Ryan Newman . The 36-year-old may be the least flashy of the remaining competitors still in contention for this year's championship, but yet another timely performance last weekend at Martinsville Speedway has him second in the standings with two races remaining before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Newman finished third at the 0.526-mile track, tied for his best result of the year, behind the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Gordon. He's three points back of Gordon, the series points leader, and has five consecutive finishes of eighth place or better. "(The new format) has played to our advantage mathematically, no doubt," Newman said. "We were the 16th seed coming in without a win. We've not won yet. We were tied for the lead in the points with four races to go. So mathematically it has played to my advantage, as it has others, but probably mine mostly." Even a rare mistake can't ruin the momentum the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team has generated. Following a caution on Lap 188, Newman was busted for speeding on pit road -- coincidentally, so was the No. 24 of Gordon. That sent the No. 31 back to 31st in the lineup, setting the stage for a rally that was more grit than glamour. Newman's progress through the field after that penalty Sunday was slow. He was 25th on a Lap 277 caution, 13th after a Lap 386 caution and finally back into the top 10 by Lap 400. On the final pit stop following a red flag on Lap 488, Newman's team gambled on two tires. He restarted eighth, and had never cracked the top five in the race until the final lap. "The strategy of two tires there at the end worked out good for us," he said. "It was the right number of laps with the guys that stayed out, and we kept the guys behind us that had four tires. It was a great team effort. I put our team in a hole when I sped on pit lane, which doesn't happen very often. It cost us a lot of track position." Perhaps equally as important as Newman's outstanding day was that Earnhardt won the race. Junior is no longer in the Chase, and those in the Eliminator Round automatically qualify for the four-driver championship round at Homestead with a victory this round. That means at least two of those four heralded spots will be determined by points. For a driver that hasn't won this year, but whose average finish (13.0) ranks fourth in all of the Sprint Cup Series, it's setting up to be an ideal scenario heading to Texas Motor Speedway . "I mean, it's played to our advantage the entire time as far as not having a win, not having bonus points," Newman said. "But that doesn't mean it's going to be from the drop of the green in Texas or from the drop of the green in Homestead." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Path to fifth title runs through Martinsville (1:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, ESPN) RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- The clock has held the key in many of Jeff Gordon 's four career championship runs. Being in contention to win that unique Ridgeway grandfather clock, which doubles as a race trophy, in the fall race at Martinsville Speedway was a crucial component for the 43-year-old veteran when he was winning premier series championships over a seven-year span. He used his success at this unique 0.526-mile oval -- where he has eight career wins -- to gain separation in those title tilts. As the defending race winner, Gordon can do the same Sunday in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), where a win would guarantee him one of four spots in the final four-driver Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "I can honestly say, never has Martinsville been more important than this weekend," Gordon said. "I definitely think it's played an important role to my championship runs in the past. Our team is solid here, and we come in here believing that we have a chance at winning. This weekend though, with the way this format is, I think we're in a situation where this is a great track where we can win it. We're very focused on this track." The format Gordon speaks of is the brand-new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup configuration. The Chase concept wasn't around when Gordon won his most recent title (2001), and the newest iteration is in its first year of existence. Typically when the series hits Martinsville in late October, there are five -- and often, fewer -- drivers still in championship contention. This year, there are eight. The points have reset to 4,000 among all eligible drivers in the Eliminator Round, Gordon included. That makes all the details extra important, which is why Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates tested here earlier this season in preparation for Sunday's race. Gordon came back to the paper clip-shaped track for the test on the heels of a 12th-place finish in the spring. That result was one of just three finishes outside the top 10 at the track since 2003, a span of 23 races. It's a staggering statistic, one that is only equaled by teammate Jimmie Johnson . In addition to eight wins here, which matches Gordon's total, "Six-Time" has 22 top-10s in his 25 career Martinsville starts. Excluding his very first start at the track in 2002, Johnson's worst career finish is 12th. Like Gordon, he's long used the unique oval as a springboard toward his six championships. "This has been a track that can certainly shuffle the deck," Johnson said. "With Jeff and the situation he's in in the points, I'm hopeful he can take advantage of things this weekend and have a good run." Gordon having a good run is of utmost importance to Hendrick Motorsports. After all, he's the only one of the stable's four drivers to have qualified for the Eliminator Round. Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne were all ousted after Talladega, with Kahne finishing above the cutoff line in points but failing to transfer after Brad Keselowski -- who finished the Contender Round with fewer points than Kahne -- won the GEICO 500 to earn an automatic entry into the third round. It presents a scenario in which the main character is different, but the theme is the same for Hendrick Motorsports. Drivers in the organization are accustomed to having one of their teammates running for a title, and having to be mindful of his situation -- it's just that for the past eight years it's been Johnson, not Gordon. "I'm going to be aware of where (Gordon) is on the track and try not to give him a hard time," Johnson said. "I've always won championships by keeping it simple and feel like getting too far away from normal and overthinking things creates problems for me. I'm not sure how Jeff wants to go about things. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep to themselves and do what they can. That's what got them in this position and that's what's going to win them a championship." And Gordon being in position to win a championship at sunny Homestead starts here Sunday in the chilly Virginia foothills, where a grandfather clock has historically helped determine if it's time to win a title. "When you get the opportunity to have that clock delivered to your home or to the shop, it's very special," Gordon said. "I cherish every one and I look forward to that opportunity, and we've got a great opportunity this weekend. Everybody always says, 'Oh man, do you ever have trouble finding places for those?' No. "We can win more and more and more and we'll never have a problem finding a good place for it." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Albert: 2012 series champ back to take-no-prisoners mindset RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota If Brad Keselowski clinches his second title at NASCAR's highest level this season, might his introduction as reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion draw the rarest of receptions? Polite, obligatory applause more befitting for a golf gallery. Or worse, crickets. Worse yet, boos. Two years ago at the finale of Champion's Week ceremonies in Las Vegas, Keselowski struck a gracious note in his speech before an audience of his peers, with the unscripted line "I want to be your leader" becoming the night's defining sound bite. Fast forward to 2014 and it's a much different, take-no-prisoners tone coming from the driver of the Team Penske No. 2 Ford. Keselowski may well hoist the Sprint Cup trophy by season's end, but barring a dramatic, 11th-hour mending of the fences over the next few weeks, the method will be by winning races instead of winning over friends. Still, he has to get there first -- a task made much more difficult when you're potentially perceived in the garage as Jean Girard, Russ Wheeler and Chick Hicks all rolled into one. During his first title run, Keselowski was regarded as an upstart, wielding the same brash, speak-first-and-apologize-later approach that has become especially familiar in recent weeks. As wins became more prevalent, the garage became acquainted with Keselowski's outspoken nature and, to some degree, welcomed it. At the same awards banquet in 2012, Tony Stewart offered his congratulations in prophetic words that ring just as true today: "I don't think Brad has learned to be cautious yet. Hopefully that won't bite him like it has a lot of drivers in the past. But it's refreshing. It's nice to see somebody that just speaks from the heart and isn't guarded when he speaks." Keselowski never lost his knack for candor, but last season, he lost out on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs and won just once -- a subpar year that he attributed to straying from the aggressive mindset that had worked so well in his championship season. That mindset is back in a big way. Last Sunday's major dust-up at Texas Motor Speedway marked the second incident in the previous four races with Keselowski at the center of the conflict. In the process, he shifted four of the other seven remaining title-eligible drivers in the Chase solidly over to the "enemy" side of his ledger, a list that now includes Jeff Gordon , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth . Hamlin figures prominently in that group, not only because of their deep-rooted antagonism from years past but their most recent flare-up post-race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last month. In a frank, unflinching appearance on NASCAR's weekly teleconference Wednesday, Hamlin flatly admitted that, "it's tough to win a championship if nobody likes you." Keselowski's current focus on the championship race is so single-minded that being well-liked is far down the priority list. He's said he's "comfortable" with upsetting the status quo and rankling the feelings of others if winning is part of the trade-off. While Keselowski has embraced wearing the black hat, Hamlin said he's come to realize the merits of discretion as his career has grown. "If you ask me do you want a championship trophy or do you want the respect of your peers, I will take the respect from my peers because that trophy, they can't put in my casket," Hamlin said. "What's the fun of a NASCAR party that nobody shows up to?" Keselowski isn't running for office, nor is he trying to win a popularity contest. With a majority of the Eliminator 8 field against him and the rest at least neutral, the Chase's delegate from Michigan has faint chance at the ballot box. What Keselowski does have is a loyal teammate in Chase driver Joey Logano , a venerable team owner in Roger Penske that supports his hard-nosed racing, and top-notch equipment. That just might be enough. The jury's still out on whether Keselowski reverses course and makes heartfelt apologies for his rivals' ruffled feathers. Saying "I'm sorry" is a lot easier to stomach when you're sitting at the awards gala's head table, but it's also a lot easier to hear over the sound of crickets. With two races left, expect more chirping of a different sort. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Denny Hamlin weighs in on the incident between Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon in this edition of Up To Speed.
Late caution allows veteran to pass Kyle Busch for victory RELATED: Race results " Series standings AVONDALE, Ariz. - Brad Keselowski took advantage of a late-race caution to edge Kyle Busch for a Nationwide Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway , but Chase Elliott was the day's big winner at Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans . Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott , finished fifth to clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, becoming the first rookie to accomplish the feat. The Elliott family joined the Pettys, Pearsons, Jarretts and Earnhardts in becoming families with father-son national touring series champions. Elliott, who won races at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland this season, did what he needed to, finishing ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith , who entered the race 48 points behind Elliott in the series standings and ran 10th. Elliott said he wasn't sure how to celebrate his series triumph. "I wasn't sure if it was OK to do a burnout lap or not," he said. "But I did one anyway because I was too excited not to. "I never would have even believed this was in my future. At the beginning of this season I had only run a couple of truck races. I feel lot of this is just due to the group of guys I was able to work with. Those guys were bringing me super-fast cars every week." Elliott's NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet did what Busch's Toyota could not do -- survive a green-white-checkered finish after Alex Bowman was slow on the track, bringing out a race-changing caution flag with slightly more than a lap to go. To that point, Busch had been dominant, seemingly on his way to his eighth win in 25 starts this season by leading 187 of the race's 206 laps. But Keselowski had other ideas, swooping to the inside and driving past Busch in Turn 1 of the final lap to prevent Busch from winning his fourth consecutive Nationwide start at Phoenix. "We didn't give up," Keselowski said. "Kyle was really fast – probably a 10th (of a second) or two faster than everybody. Then, that yellow came out and I really don't know what happened. I think we grabbed a gear and he slipped. "It was a little bit surreal. I really didn't even know the race was over. We were low on gas in that whole (end-of-race) situation." Busch was similarly at a loss for words. "The Monster Energy Camry was faster than everyone else – just not at the right time," said Busch, who said he knew he was in trouble when Keselowski's car "cut better than mine in Turns 3 and 4. "I tried to let him go into (Turn) 1 and cut back underneath, but my (car) wouldn't turn," Busch said. "(Right there) his stuff doesn't turn but it still turned better than ours 'cuz he still got me." Neither Keselowski nor Busch are eligible for the series title because they are full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers. For much of the race, Smith appeared primed to put his teammate's title hopes on hold. But Smith struggled after leaving the pits with 29 laps to go after taking left side tires on a yellow-flag pit stop. Elliott leaped from ninth to sixth in the running order and held serve the rest of the way. Busch took fresh tires during that same caution and restarted fifth. The strategy seemed to pay off as he easily got around Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Bowman, each of whom elected to forego the pits on that final stop. But Keselowski made it happen in the final two laps of his Nationwide Series campaign. "We have a great team," said Keselowski, who did not finish worse than fourth in any of his 10 Nationwide starts this season. "I'm proud to be a part of it. It's been a phenomenal year and I'm going to remember this one for a long time." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule