NASCAR Cup: Joey Logano advances in Chase with Talladega win
Joey Logano (22) leaves pit road with a jack under his car early in the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 23, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Joey Logano joined Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick as drivers advancing to round three — the Round of Eight — of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of second-round race wins, as he won the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, the elimination race of the Chase’s second round.
“I feel good,” Logano said. “If we can get through this round, it was going to be tough after what happened in Charlotte, so to be able to recover and win in a clutch moment like this to move us on feels really, really good.”
The win was Logano’s second-straight in the fall race at Talladega and gave Team Penske three wins in the season’s four restrictor-plate races, adding to Brad Keselowski’s win at Talladega in May and at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in July.
Brian Scott was second to Logano on the final restart with two green-flag laps remaining in the race that was scheduled for a 188-lap distance but extended to 192 laps by a sixth and final caution on lap 186. Scott maintained his position and claimed a career-best second-place finish.
“It was just a solid day for the No. 44 Goody’s Ford,” Scott said. “We had a team meeting before the race. We knew that we were going to have to be perfect. We were going to have to have no mistakes on pit road, gonna have to have a fast Ford, keep good track position all day and try to make friends throughout the race so they would work with us at the end, and our game plan was really just executed very well. The guys did a great job on pit road. We had a really solid car. Roush Yates Engines ere amazing today, and we were able to show our speed to a lot of the field, and when it came down to the finish or the restart there at the end, lucky enough to have Denny Hamlin and some guys work with us to give us an opportunity at the win.”
Denny Hamlin finished third, Kurt Busch was fourth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five.
With his third-place finish, Hamlin secured the eighth and final Chase advancement spot over Austin Dillon, who finished ninth. The two drivers were in a points tie at the checkered flag, but Hamlin advanced and Dillon was eliminated from the Chase by virtue of a tie-breaker.
Other drivers eliminated from the Chase after Talladega were Chase Elliott, who needed to win to advance; Brad Keselowski, who tied Kyle Busch for most wins in the regular season with four; and Martin Truex Jr., who won two of the three races in the opening round of the Chase.
Truex and Keselowski both saw their championship hopes go up in smoke, literally, both retiring from the race because of blown engines.
Truex’s engine failure resulted in the first caution of the race on lap 42.
“Just developed a vibration and started to lose a little bit of power,” Truex said. “Originally, I thought it could have been a tire, because it was shaking worse and worse and worse until it was time to pit. I slowed down to hit pit road and felt the vibration still there and knew it was the engine. Definitely not the way we wanted today to go. It’s a tough way to go out, but proud of the effort and proud of all the guys. The engines have been great all year, and every once in a while, you’ll have a failure, and it’s unfortunate that it was with everything on the line. I don’t know; it is what it is, and it’s racing. It’s part of it, and we’ll move on.”
Sunday’s engine failure was the first for Truex’s No. 78 team since 2014.
Keselowski’s problems came on lap 145 after a dominating performance, up to that point. After Truex started on the pole, Keselowski took the lead on the first lap and led 90 laps before losing his engine.
After Keselowski’s retirement, Logano took over and led most of the remaining laps.
The eventual race winner’s day on pit road wasn’t perfect, though. Logano’s pit-road hiccup came nearly simultaneously to a pit-road speeding penalty for Hamlin on lap 39. At about the same time as Hamlin was speeding down pit road, Logano was leaving his pit stall with his team’s jack still under his car.
“We had a misstep on the first pit stop with the jack, but fortunately, we got a chance to get back and get it cleared up,” Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, said. “It wasn’t a damaged race car, and the guys did a great job to cycle us out and got us to the lead there later on a pit stop cycle, and Joey did a great job driving forward. I’m proud of everybody at Team Penske and the race cars they put forward.”
After Hamlin worked part of the way back up through the field, he utilized an unusual superspeedway strategy of pitting alone during the next cycle of green-flag stops just past lap 80. His stop was perfectly timed, allowing to rejoin the lead back, and he was in the top-five by the time the cycle completed.
While Hamlin ran in the top-five before his penalty and then got back up front to run in the top-five throughout the second half of the race, all three of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates — Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth — dropped to the back at the green flag and remained their throughout the race. Unlike Hamlin, though, their potential to advance in the chase was relatively secure.
“It’s frustrating (to run in the back),” Busch said after finishing 30th. “But to have a dull day today, it’s certainly going to make for a heck of a lot more exciting days down the road. You have to look at it as you have to take the good with the bad sometimes; no different in that sort of scenario. Today was one of those having to ride around bad-type days, but the reward is being able to race on and go into the next round and have a chance to race for another championship.”
Kyle Larson finished sixth, Kevin Harvick was seventh, Aric Almirola in eighth and A.J. Allmendinger in 10th.
Advancing in the Chase are Logano, Harvick, Johnson, Hamlin, Busch, Kenseth, Edwards and Kurt Busch. They’ll kick-off the third round of the Chase at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Oct. 30
on even ground, all with 4000 points.