AVONDALE, Ariz. —
The big duel came behind Edwards.
Despite struggling with his car most of the day, Hamlin made a bold move on the last lap with a pass on the apron below the dogleg. He popped up alongside Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson and the two drag-raced to the finish, where Johnson edged him by a few inches.
Keselowski, who was outside Johnson during Hamlin’s move, finished fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up fifth.
“As far down as I was, I was committed, there was nothing that I was going to do where I would back out,” Hamlin said. “I just hoped I would have just slid in front of the 48, then you risk getting punted and spun, and your whole day you’ve worked everything for is taken away in a corner. I held my line and thought I really did the right thing and gave those guys room to pass me back — and one of them did.”
The last Phoenix race, in November, set up Keselowski for his first Sprint Cup title after Johnson blew a tire. It also featured quite a sideshow.
A running feud between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon boiled over late in the race, setting off a brawl in the pits and Bowyer on a WWE-style dash to Gordon’s hauler.
The drivers tried to downplay the confrontation after arriving in the desert this week, but it’s been hard to avoid, with video of the scrap-and-dash being shown all over in promos for the race and replays.
Ryan Newman had the only dash this time around, running across the track and away from his car after it blew a right-front tire for the second time in 140 laps.
Inside his car, Mark Martin failed in his bid to become the oldest Sprint Cup winner.