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Gordon, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Truex head to Miami; Dale Jr. wins at PIR

Rain cut short Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, and it also cut short four drivers’ hopes of advancing to next Sunday’s championship-deciding race in Miami.

As a result, defending series champion Kevin Harvick (second), Kyle Busch (fourth) and Martin Truex Jr. (14th) will join Jeff Gordon (sixth; he already had advanced with a Martinsville Speewday win) in racing for the championship.

Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano were eliminated after the third round of the playoffs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his third win of the season and third at Phoenix when the race was called after 219 of a scheduled 312 laps.

Harvick finished second, followed by Logano, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.

Sixth through 10th were Gordon, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Keselowski and Aric Almirola.

HOW EARNHARDT WON: Excellent pit strategy, plain and simple. Crew chief Greg Ives brought Earnhardt into the pits during a green-flag cycle just as the caution flew for a two-car crash involving Joey Gase and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Earnhardt inherited the lead from Harvick when he beat the yellow out of the pits. Shortly thereafter, the rain came, negating the opportunity to restart the race and making Earnhardt the winner.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Obviously, it was a great race for Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Harvick – not so much for where they finished, but because they all stayed above the points cutoff to advance to the championship finale at Miami along with Gordon.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Even though they had decent runs going before the rain came, it wound up being less than Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano had hoped, as rain prevented them from having a shot at reaching next Sunday’s championship round. … As for the actual race itself, Joey Gase and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both made hard contact to the outside wall on Lap 197 and suffered heavy damage. Stenhouse was running 16th at the time but wasn’t on the lead lap.

NOTABLE: How close was it when the rain came? Truex finished 14th to secure the fourth and final spot at Miami with just a five-point edge over Carl Edwards. … Kurt Busch got off to a bad start when NASCAR ruled he jumped the start of the race, a subject that was covered during the prerace driver’s meeting. Busch was assessed a stop-and-go penalty, dropping him from the front of the field back to 35th. … The first 100 laps went by in a very speedy 49 minutes. … Rain postponed the race by more than six hours, 30 minutes from its scheduled start time. … Chevrolet clinched its 13th consecutive (and 30th overall) manufacturer’s championship. ... Can you say irony? There will be three Chevrolets (Gordon, Truex and Harvick) and one Toyota (Kyle Busch) in Sunday’s championship race, but not one Ford driver in a race called the Ford 400, part of Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s my last one and I couldn’t be more excited or more determined to go down there and do what it takes. … I think our chances are good. I can’t say until we get the green flag or the checkered flag, but I feel pretty good about it right now.” – Jeff Gordon on going to Homestead for the final race – and final hope for a fifth Sprint Cup championship – in his career.

WHAT’S NEXT: The season-ending and championship deciding Ford 400 will take place Sunday, Nov. 22, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski