Logano wins at Tal­ladega, makes round of 8; 4 ousted

Baltimore Sun - - NFL - By Ge­orge Diaz

TAL­LADEGA, ALA. — Joey Logano won in over­time in the Hell­mann’s 500 at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way on Sun­day in a Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship elim­i­na­tion race that could have been called Last Man Stand­ing.

The day be­gan with 12 driv­ers com­pet­ing for eight spots in NASCAR’s play­off for­mat. But those num­bers whit­tled down as the race con­tin­ued.

Martin Truex Jr.? Engine trou­ble on Lap 41. Done.

Brad Ke­selowski? Engine prob­lems, too, over­heat­ing af­ter deal­ing with de­bris on two separate oc­ca­sions be­fore his day came to an end on Lap144.

Logano? A for­tu­nate son, up front at the end, as he held off Brian Scott for the win af­ter a late cau­tion. He also be­gan the day on the bub­ble, tied with Austin Dil­lon for the eighth and fi­nal play­off spot.

“I knew the sit­u­a­tion. I stud­ied the points and knew who I had to beat,” Logano said.

Sound strat­egy, un­til Logano made his first pit stop and took off with the jack for a lap penalty that he would over­come on a cau­tion af­ter he got to the lead lap.

That was his first for­tu­nate twist. The sec­ond one came when Ke­selowski, his Team Penske team­mate, had those engine trou­bles. Ke­selowski, also in a scram­ble for points and likely need­ing a win to ad­vance, had the most dom­i­nant car of the day, lead­ing 90 laps.

He went from dom­i­nant to door­mat, open­ing a win­dow for Logano, who ended up lead­ing 45 laps.

“There’s a lot go­ing through your mind,” Logano said, “a lot more than think­ing about win­ning. … I felt bad for Brad. He­had a very good car and un­for­tu­nately, he got some garbage that made his mo­tor re­tire.”

That wasn’t the only drama along the way.

The mar­gin be­tween Denny Ham­lin and Kurt Busch was .006 of a sec­ond, which al­lowed Ham­lin to ad­vance for the fi­nal Chase spot in a tiebreaker with Dil­lon.

“It’s heart­break­ing, ob­vi­ously,” said Dil­lon, who came in ninth. “Per­fect storm, kinda, when the 78 [Truex] and 2 [Ke­selowski] fell out, but we weren’t able to pull it off.”

Ham­lin was do­ing as much Chase math as he could in the race, al­though he told his team not to bother re­lay­ing the in­tel as the race came down to its fi­nal laps.

“I didn’t want any,” said Ham­lin, who fin­ished third. “Even on the last lap, I’m sure they had in­for­ma­tion. I told them I was go­ing to try fin­ish­ing the best I could, and if it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough.

“It’s new life for us. We’re on house money at this point.”

Yes, he is, and he will be among four Joe Gibbs Rac­ing cars in the fi­nal eight. Ham­lin will join JGR team­mates Kyle Busch, Carl Ed­wards and Matt Kenseth. Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports’ Jim­mie John­son will seek his sev­enth sea­son ti­tle. Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing will bring two driv­ers into the mix, Kevin Har­vick and Kyle Busch, while Penske has one in Logano.

Ron Fritz, Se­nior Ed­i­tor/Sports, 410-332-6421, fax: 410-783-2518, e-mail: sports@balt­sun.com Nick No­vak (Mary­land) and the Tex­ans will play the Bron­cos tonight

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