By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. – A serendipitous sequence of pit stops and a drizzle that turned into a downpour made a winner of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Sunday night’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the start of which
was delayed from day to night by rain in the afternoon.
But the race that was halted by the rain 93 laps before its scheduled conclusion was hardly the satisfying ending Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch or Joey Logano had hoped for.
Those four drivers were eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, as defending champion Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. joined Jeff Gordon in next Sunday’s Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).
Earnhardt came to pit road for fuel and tires one lap before Joey Gase and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed in Turn 3 to bring out the second caution of the race on Lap 196. While on pit road, Earnhardt crossed the scoring line at the flag stand before Harvick, who had dominated with 143 laps led, got to the stripe. And when other lead-lap cars came to pit road under the yellow, Earnhardt inherited the top spot, with Harvick second and Logano third. Before track workers could complete clean-up from the accident, rain began to fall, and NASCAR called the race after the light precipitation became a downpour.
Kyle Busch finished fourth to advance to the season finale. Gordon ran sixth, followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Keselowski. Truex came home 14th but edged 12th-place finisher Edwards for the final spot in the Championship Round by five points.
Logano, Keselowski and Kurt Busch (who was hit with a pass-through penalty from jumping the start of the race) needed to win on Sunday to make the finals. But the rain made sure they never got a chance at another restart.