Joey Logano raced to victory in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, securing his spot in the eight-driver Eliminator round of NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup format, irrespective of his performance in the next two races – the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway – the latter being one of four Sprint Cup races run with restrictor plates. The other three races run with restrictor plates are Aaron’s 499 (won in 2014 by Denny Hamlin), the Coke Zero 400 (won in 2014 by Aric Almirola), and the Daytona 500 (won in 2014 by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.).
Kevin Harvick started in pole position in Sunday’s race, finishing in 12th position. Starting in 4th position in the Team Penske #22 Ford, Joey Logano held the lead in 122 laps of the 267 lap race, notching up his 5th win of the season. Kyle Larson took 2nd place, followed by Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Carl Edwards in that order. Three of Sunday’s top five winners are in the Chase, being Logano, Busch and Edwards.
The Eliminator round begins October 26 at Martinsville Speedway with the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, followed by the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, and Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9. Drivers start this three-race round with 4,000 points each.
As has been tradition since 2002, the final race of the season will be the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race forms part of the Ford Championship Weekend, featuring the Ford EcoBoost 300 and Ford EcoBoost 200. Taking place on November 16, the last four competing drivers start the Ford EcoBoost 400 with 5,000 points each. The highest finisher in the race wins the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Car Champion title.
Team Penske is leading the pack in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, with Brad Keselowki on 2097 points and Joey Logano on 2096. Logano took the checkered flag in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with his #22 Ford leading 73 laps, including the final 30 laps, of the race. Teammate Keselowski came in at seventh place on Sunday, nonetheless retaining the top spot in the standings. Kyle Larson took second place in the Sylvania 300, with Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson in third, fourth and fifth place respectively. The upcoming AAA400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28 will decide which four of the sixteen Chase drivers will be eliminated.
As his fourth victory of the season (and seventh in his career), Logano enters into the second elimination round in the new NASCAR format. Observers note that taking four tires on Lap 247 may have given Logano an edge, but after restarting 16th on Lap 251, he sped past Harvick and Keselowski on the Lap 274 restart to take the lead. In a post-race interview Logano noted that New Hampshire is his home race track and “the coolest place to win for me”.
Sunday’s race at New Hampshire featured 15 caution flags, and quite a number of drivers battled with mechanical failures and other issues. Having led 32 laps, Denny Hamlin’s #11 Toyota experienced a fueling problem which knocked him back four laps, and his efforts were further hampered when he was caught up in a multicar wreck on the 181st lap.
When the race ended, five Chase contenders were outside the top 20 – Kasey Kahne (23rd), Denny Hamlin (37th), Matt Kenseth (21st), Kurt Busch (36th) and Jeff Gordon (26th) – but remain in the running. Aric Almirola bounced back from his setback with engine failure at Chicagoland Speedway last week to finish in sixth place, keeping his Chase contender status.