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Opinion: Joe Gibbs gets three shots to win NASCAR title after Denny Hamlin’s Phoenix win – USA TODAY

Opinion: Joe Gibbs gets three shots to win NASCAR title after Denny Hamlin’s Phoenix win – USA TODAY
18 Nov
2:25

AVONDALE, Ariz. — For almost anyone, Miami is a wonderful destination in mid-November. 

For NASCAR racing teams, it has been the only place to be the past 17 years.

That was evident Sunday in the facial expressions of the four drivers who have qualified to compete for the Monster Energy Cup Series Cup Championship next weekend at Miami-Homestead Speedway.

And also in several of the ones who didn’t.

Miami, Miami, Miami.

It’s all you heard Sunday at the Bluegreen Vacations 500 (it’s a timeshare company) in Avondale at NASCAR’s penultimate race of the season.

Kyle Busch, one of two drivers to clinch a berth in the Championship 4 on Sunday, leads a pack of cars during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway.

A sellout crowd at ISM Raceway showed up to watch drivers compete not only to win a race, but also to earn enough points to make NASCAR’s version of the final four.

It might be the last time we host a semifinal. A year from now, the Valley gets promoted to home of the final race.

Not that our current place in NASCAR’s pecking order was bad. It’s led to thrilling races in the fall, and to race fans checking which team had to do what in a race to earn one of the last four spots.

On Sunday, it came down to this for two drivers:

Denny Hamlin had to win to qualify, and he did.

Joey Logano had to win to qualify, and he didn’t.

HAMLIN:Delivers clutch win to reach NASCAR Championship 4

UNLUCKY:Devastating wreck ends Elliott’s NASCAR title hopes

It was a crushing blow for Logano, who won last year’s championship and led early Sunday. But after a pit stop, something in his car changed. If he, or his crew, could have put their finger on it, they would have put a wrench on it.

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