Joey Logano made it to the final four last season, and could have won the championship if it weren’t for a bad pit stop when it counted the most. Logano and the No. 22 team want to get back there again, and after leading 227 of 334 laps and winning the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte, they’re all the more closer to their goal.
The race was postponed from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon due to inclement weather in the Charlotte area. The drivers didn’t even come close to racing Saturday night, but that didn’t matter for Logano and his No. 22 team, as they were the dominant car all afternoon.
“This makes Talladega way easier,” Logano said with a smile in victory lane, as he is now automatically advanced into the next round (eliminator eight).
Kevin Harvick finished second, one week after his clutch win at Dover, and is sitting pretty heading into next weekend’s race at Kansas. Martin Truex Jr. came home third, Denny Hamlin fourth, Carl Edwards fifth, Kurt Busch sixth, Jeff Gordon eighth, Brad Keselowski ninth (Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola finished seventh and 10th, respectively, in the middle of the Chase drivers) and Ryan Newman finished 15th.
However, some other Chasers weren’t so fortunate with their finishes and are now behind in this round. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth finished 20th and 42nd, respectively, for JGR, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 28th as well.
So what happened to them?
Let’s start with Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team. That car hit the wall twice, on laps 69 and 74, which brought out a caution. They came in for repairs, but could never get the speed back that they had in the beginning of the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
After a restart on lap 190, NASCAR cleaned up some oil that was left on the track before the field went back to green flag racing, or at least they thought they did. Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski all hit the wall, which eventually brought the caution out. But the two JGR cars had different problems of their own.
In the preview article for this weekend’s race, I talked about how Kyle Busch always manages to find bad luck, and if he wanted to make it to the final four, and past this round, he was going to have it avoid him. Unfortunately for him, he found it. Toward the end of the race, Busch was headed for pit road, but then faked out and was trying to come back onto the track. The only problem was that Kyle Larson, who ended up finishing in 21st position after being one of the fastest cars all afternoon, was trying to come to pit road and make the commitment line at the last second. Busch and Larson ended up making contact, Larson spun out on pit road and Busch gained some damage on the right front. The No 18 team salvaged the best of a bad situation, but finishing 20th isn’t ideal for them. Neither is what happened to his teammate, Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth was leading the race for the majority of the first portion of the afternoon, but after his crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, called him to pit road and a bunch of drivers in front of him stayed out, his track position was gone. The car didn’t perform the same in dirty air, and things got worse. On lap 176, Kenseth made contact with Ryan Newman and hit the wall. After his No. 20 team worked to repair the car, he hit the wall again on lap 204 and then once more on lao 241, ending his afternoon and putting him in a huge hole heading into next weekend at Kansas and then the infamous Talladega.
Kenseth now finds himself in 12th spot in the standings, 32 points behind the cutoff for eighth place. If the round were to end now, Kenseth, Busch, Earnhardt Jr. and Newman would be on the outside looking in. But as we have learned, anything can and will happen in the Chase. And I don’t expect Kansas to be any different.