Logano wins at Talladega, makes round of 8; 4 ousted
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Nick Novak (Maryland) and the Texans will play the Broncos tonight