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Logano Dominates At Charlotte Motor Speedway

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, October 11 2015
Joey Logano got hit first victory of the Chase on Sunday and nailed a berth in third round of the playoffs. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Joey Logano got hit first victory of the Chase on Sunday and nailed a berth in third round of the playoffs. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Joey Logano cruised into the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs on Sunday by notching a dominating victory the first race of the second round.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led a race-best 227 of 334 laps in getting the win at Charlotte chase 15 logoMotor Speedway. The win was the Team Penske driver’s fourth of the season and first of the Chase.

Kevin Harvick, who dominated last week at Dover in the final race of the first round of the Chase, finished second in Sunday’s rain-postponed race.

Logano was asked how it felt to be able beat back Harvick at CMS.

“I think everyone saw how fast he was last week and it probably made a lot of people nervous, but our team kept their heads up and stayed confident,” Logano said. “We know we can beat them.  We know we’ve got what we need over here and our team is as tight-knit as they get.  I’m proud of them.  I couldn’t be more proud of them.  We had a lot of money stops today to keep us out front.  The pit stops were great and I couldn’t be more proud of what they’re doing right now.”

A year ago, Logano advanced to the final round of the playoffs but ended up losing to Stewart-Haas Racing’s Harvick during the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

His team owner said he has been impressed with Logano since joining Team Penske three years ago.

“For Joey, he came on our team and he’s done nothing but gone straight up from the standpoint of performance and what he’s added,” Roger Penske said. “To me, it was a real team effort and certainly I think at his age and how he handles himself and the way he drove today with the 4 car.  When you can beat the 4 car (Harvick) any day, any time that’s a big deal for us and I think it was good that we could at least be on a level playing field with him today.  Unfortunately, I guess some of the key guys that we would have expected to be up in the front had some problems, so you never know how they would have run if they didn’t have the problems, but we’ll take it.  I think it’s better than a win when you can go on to the next bracket, so I guess that’s the real end game here is to move on in this Chase.”

The No. 4 team elected to stay out and keep the second position during the final caution of the day on lap 241. Harvick restarted second, maintained his position through his final green-flag pit stop on lap 283 and crossed the finish line less than a second behind race-winner Joey Logano.

“We could hang with him (Logano), but I would just lose him every once in a while in traffic,” said Harvick, who won the 2014 Bank of America 500 at CMS. “It was just extremely hard to pass. But all in all, we weren’t very good all weekend, and the guys just did a great job on pit road to make our car better throughout the day. We were able to make our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet better as we went on. So, I’m just really proud of that. And if those are the off-days, we’ll be just fine.”

Chase driver Martin Truex Jr. finished third at Charlotte.

“We were off in practice and I was really nervous about today’s race,” Truex, who drives for Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing, said. “Really didn’t know what to expect, but our guys stepped it up and gave me a competitive race car. Cole (crew chief Cole Pearn) and everyone on the pit box called a perfect race and made the right adjustments. And our pit crew came through once again.
 
“It was just hard work and a never-give-up attitude. From the time practice was over on Friday until this morning we were texting about the setup and what we were going to do and what we had to do. I’m just proud of our guys for what they did. It was a true team effort and a testament to this team and their fight.”

Rounding out the top five were Chasers Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch.

“It’s a good day,” Hamlin said. “Definitely would have liked – you always want to win just to put that pressure off. A fourth-place finish obviously does good things for us and hopefully we go to Kansas and build on this.”

Next up for the series is Kansas Speedway next Sunday, where Logano won a year ago. After that is nerve wracking Talladega.

With Sunday’s win at CMS, Logano’s nerves will be a little less wracked than other Chasers over the next several weeks.

“This makes Talladega way easier,” he said. “I know that’s on everyone’s mind when this round
starts and last year we won Kansas when it was the first race of this round and now we were able to get it this time at Charlotte.  We’ll get lots of sleep here the next couple of weeks.”

The 1.5-mile Charlotte oval was tough on three Chasers – Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. All were involved in incidents and will need to stage big comeback over the next couple of weeks.

Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota made contact with Ryan Newman’s Chevrolet. That produced a flat right front tire and several brushes with the wall eventually forced the 2003 series champion out of the race in 42nd place—with a huge mountain to climb in the next two weeks to return to championship eligibility.

Among Chase drivers, Kenseth is in last place (12th), 32 points out of the last transfer position.

“If this is the best I can do, it’s amazing I have a job,” Kenseth cracked in one of his post-race interviews.

Kyle Larson was running second, and Busch third, approaching pit road after NASCAR called the eighth caution because of fluid on the track.

Busch feinted toward pit road, as he often does in similar situations. But as Busch steered his No. 18 Toyota to the right of the commitment cone at the entrance to pit road, Larson suddenly turned his No. 42 Chevrolet into Busch’s path.

Busch’s car sustained minor damage, and Larson’s spun on pit road, but both drivers drew commitment line violations that would send them to the back of the field for the subsequent restart on Lap 201 of 334.

Neither driver recovered from the incident, as their winning chances disappeared with the contact. Busch subsequently slid in oil in the high groove and further hurt his car during contact with the outside wall.

“We stayed out there on that caution and Kyle faked like he was coming, and the 42 (Larson) in front of us, he was on the opposite end of the commitment cone and there was no way he was going to make it,” Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, said after the race.

“He (Larson) panicked. I don’t know what happened there, but them two came together. Then we were behind the eight ball at that point, but still going to have a good day, and the track had a little bit of oil on it, didn’t get cleaned up as well—which a lot of people were talking about on the radio. Kyle slipped in it and fenced it, and that’s what really did us in.”

Larson said he got contradictory instructions on his radio.

“They told me to do what everybody around me was doing, and the No. 22 (race winner Joey Logano) was staying out, so I was committed to staying out,” Larson said. “And as soon as I turned right to stay out they said ‘Pit, pit, pit.’

“I hung a left and Kyle (Busch) was there. I feel really terrible to ruin their day, and hopefully it didn’t hurt their chances of transferring through this round (of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup). I know they deserved a top-three finish for sure. I felt awful immediately and still do. I hate it.”

Busch salvaged a 20th-place finish, but he’s 10 points out of eighth place, the position that will transfer from the Chase’s Contender Round to the Eliminator Round.

“Just can’t say enough about my guys – all the work that they put into these things,” Busch said. “They don’t deserve to be put in these situations year in, year out, but we are for some reason.

“But it’s tough, and we’re going to have to battle through with what we’ve got right now. I can’t say enough about what they did on pit road getting us back salvageable.”

Hendrick Motorsports’ Earnhardt kept bouncing off walls.

 

The first brush with the SAFER barrier came on Lap 69, after contact from Carl Edwards’ Toyota. Earnhardt later hit the wall when his No. 88 Chevrolet slid through fluid in the top groove.

Ultimately, Earnhardt finished 28th, four laps down, and left Charlotte in 11th place in the standings, 19 points out of the last transfer position to the next round of the Chase, currently held by eighth-place Brad Keselowski.

“We tried everything we could to get laps back, because we had a good enough car to run in the top 20,” Earnhardt said. “Even after smashing it into the fence after all them times, we still had okay speed; but we just couldn’t get an opportunity to get those laps back. Other guys had trouble. And it ain’t over. Don’t worry about that.

“I mean, we don’t have to go to Talladega (Oct. 25) and be nervous like those guys that are going to have to play it safe. We can just go hard. So, we’ve got a great car that can win that race. We can go to Kansas (next Sunday) and run great. I like that track and don’t see why we can’t run great there and maybe win the race there. It ain’t over.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Bank of America 500

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Sunday, October 11, 2015

 

  1. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 334, $329873.
  2. (11) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 334, $240750.
  3. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $172320.
  4. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 334, $147225.
  5. (6) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 334, $139150.
  6. (8) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 334, $117040.
  7. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 334, $141151.
  8. (22) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 334, $144701.
  9. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 334, $136681.
  10. (9) Aric Almirola, Ford, 334, $133651.
  11. (23) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 334, $124198.
  12. (30) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 334, $117891.
  13. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 334, $94850.
  14. (16) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 334, $80200.
  15. (10) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 334, $115475.
  16. (17) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 334, $114033.
  17. (18) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 333, $117470.
  18. (21) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 333, $104733.
  19. (24) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 333, $88575.
  20. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 333, $132066.
  21. (31) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 333, $107258.
  22. (33) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 332, $120100.
  23. (34) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 332, $78625.
  24. (4) Greg Biffle, Ford, 331, $111808.
  25. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 331, $77945.
  26. (36) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 331, $104859.
  27. (29) David Gilliland, Ford, 330, $99453.
  28. (12) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 330, $93495.
  29. (40) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 330, $90028.
  30. (37) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 330, $77635.
  31. (32) Michael McDowell, Ford, 329, $73420.
  32. (27) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 329, $82742.
  33. (35) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 328, $73070.
  34. (43) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 326, $72945.
  35. (42) Reed Sorenson, Ford, 325, $72795.
  36. (26) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 325, $80615.
  37. (19) David Ragan, Toyota, Engine, 289, $99695.
  38. (39) Cole Whitt, Ford, Accident, 262, $67602.
  39. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Engine, 257, $112066.
  40. (28) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 251, $67530.
  41. (41) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 244, $55530.
  42. (1) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Accident, 236, $124166.
  43. (20) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 58, $66030.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  139.76 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 35 Mins, 05 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.703 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 44 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Kenseth 0; Kyle Busch 1-4; M. Kenseth 5-76; J. Logano 77-121; J. Johnson 122-123; K. Larson 124-126; C. Edwards 127; J. Logano 128-231; A. Dillon 232; J. Gordon 233; C. Bowyer 234; S. Hornish Jr. 235-241; J. Logano 242-284; S. Hornish Jr. 285-299; J. Logano 300-334.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Logano 4 times for 227 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 72 laps; S. Hornish Jr. 2 times for 22 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 4 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 3 laps; J. Johnson 1 time for 2 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 1 lap; A. Dillon 1 time for 1 lap; C. Edwards 1 time for 1 lap; C. Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Logano – 3,048; K. Harvick – 3,042; M. Truex Jr. – 3,041; D. Hamlin – 3,040; Kurt Busch – 3,039; C. Edwards – 3,039; J. Gordon – 3,037; B. Keselowski – 3,035; R. Newman – 3,029; Kyle Busch – 3,025; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 3,016; M. Kenseth – 3,003; J. McMurray – 2,130; J. Johnson – 2,092; P. Menard – 2,083; C. Bowyer – 2,082.

 

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, October 11 2015
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