Joey Logano Prevails While Fellow Chase Contenders Struggle

Joey Logano Prevails While Fellow Chase Contenders Struggle

by September 21, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images

LOUDON, N.H. – After winning the SYLVANIA 300 on Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Joey Logano will join his Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski in the Contender Round of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

On Sunday, Joey Logano led 73 laps and was one of the few Chase drivers who didn’t have some sort of an issue. The win is his fourth of the 2014 season. He took the checkered flag earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway. Sunday’s victory marked the fifth career top-10 finish at the speedway he considers home.

“This is personally I consider my worst race track,” Logano said. “That’s terrible to say because it’s my home race track, but I’ve always struggled when I come here. To be able to win at your worst race track that makes you feel like you can win anywhere. It’s just special to be able to do that and the confidence is high with the 22 team right now and all of Team Penske. We all feel like we’ve got some championships to win this year, not only on the Cup side but on the Nationwide side also.”

The SYLVANIA 300 saw 15 cautions that ended the race under green-white-checkered conditions. Chase contending drivers struggled the most, and the first one to fall victim was Denny Hamlin who finished 37th and fell seven spots in the Challenger Round point standings. Hamlin’s day started off with fueling issues, and he lost a number of laps while his crew tried to fix the issue.

“I don’t think it was anyone’s fault — I don’t think,” Hamlin said. “But, we couldn’t get fuel in it from the get go. Don’t know where that’s coming from, what it’s all about — you just can’t have any mistakes in this three race Chase deal. We went from looking pretty and probably going to coast our way to the next round to a long shot, at best. It’s frustrating, but what can you do about it. Really can’t do anything about it honestly. You just have to suck it up and move on and try to do the best you can next week.”

On lap 181, Hamlin’s day went from bad to worse when he was caught up in accident in turn one. Martin Truex Jr. got loose underneath Just Allgaier and collected Cole Whitt and David Ragan who pounded the wall. Denny Hamlin also had nowhere to go and sustained heavy damage.

“Well, we got into a crash and that ultimately set us back the extended amount of distance,” Hamlin said. “Still, we were five laps down and were trying to get some back with wave-a-rounds, but our tone is pretty much set and I was up in the high line. Saw the wreck happen, hit the brakes and got into loose stuff and just couldn’t stop the car at that point.”

Not long after the restart, the caution flew once again on lap 189 when Chase contender, Matt Kenseth got loose exiting turn two while challenging Jamie McMurray for position. Chase contenders, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman had nowhere to go and stacked up. Busch was sent through the grass on the backstretch, and Jimmie Johnson just did sneak by avoiding the spinning car. Amazingly, Kyle Busch was able to fight back for an eighth place finish.

“I just hate that we got messed up there,” Busch said. “Kenseth was trying to race with the guy in front of him to pass him, I think it was McMurray, and got loose. I checked up, but not quick enough. I hit him, but then the guy behind me — I think it was Kasey — he just drove right through me. He couldn’t see what was going on in front of me — the spoilers on these cars you can’t see. I don’t know, we kept working on it, kept fighting on it and put fresh tires on it every chance we could get and we came back for a really good finish all things considered — and how bad it could have been. That’s a day that would do you good in the old format, just being able to salvage on and get a good day to keep going throughout and not have a bad day. But with this format, I’m not sure it matters.”

Challenger Round point leader, Brad Keselowski spun underneath Matt Kenseth in turn two on lap 195. Despite minor left rear damage sustained from hitting the wall, Keselowski was able to come back and finish seventh. However, with the win last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Keselowski automatically earns a spot in the Contender Round following next weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

“I don’t know,” Keselowski said. “We had a lot of adversity. I made a few mistakes that got us behind, but Paul Wolfe and the crew did a great job of getting us back in position. I was kind of an up-and-down day and I guess we ended on an OK note. We finished seventh, but I was definitely looking for more than that. We fought hard and it was a good, solid day.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to make an unscheduled pit stop early in the race for a loose wheel, kicking his day off with just trying to stay in the free pass position. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun off the nose of Eanrhardt Jr. in turn four on lap 202 to bring out the caution. Earnhardt Jr. escaped with no damage and ended up finishing ninth and on the lead lap.

“Yeah, it’s early in the race when we had our problem,” Earnhardt Jr. “It’s real hard to deal with it when it happens late. It’s real hard to overcome those things obviously when it happens late in the race. We were fortunate on that end to have it early. You just have to be patient. There are going to be so many yellows at the end of this race. There just are always, especially in the Chase as the season is winding down and the action is getting furious. Things are going to happen on the race track that you typically don’t see in these races. You see yellows at the end of the race, but today in the last 100 laps we had quite a few.”

Kurt Busch was the next Chase driver to have issues. He had a tire go down that put him hard into the outside wall in turn three on lap 223. Busch ended up finishing 36th, losing six positions in the Challenger Round point standings.

Only seven laps from the finish, Chase contender, Jeff Gordon who stayed out of trouble all afternoon went hard into the wall in turn one bringing out the caution and bunching the field back up for a dash to the finish. Gordon finished a disappointing 26th place, and he also lost five spots in the Chase standings.

“This place just doesn’t like us this year for whatever reason,” Gordon said. “Both races this year we just had a lot of strange things happen to us. Today we were fighting hard like we have been all day long putting a great car out there. It’s hard to get track position on the No. 22 and the No. 4 and even the No. 2 there, but I mean I was real happy with the car I thought we had an awesome race car, but it doesn’t matter if you blow a right-front tire. I’m pretty sure we cut something. I felt it go down about three-quarters of the way down the front straightaway and there is just nothing you can do. Just go along for the ride and hope the damage isn’t too bad, which we were very fortunate to still end up on the lead lap I guess.”

Tony Stewart spun coming out of turn four on lap 299 and set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. On the final restart, Kevin Harvick continued to struggle as he started underneath Joey Logano who took off with Kyle Larson right behind him. Harvick was able to settle in the third, while everyone behind scrambled for position. In the end, Logano took the checkered flag, followed by Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson who rounded out the top-five.

“It was just a good day for us,” Harvick said. “We had a fast car. Track position is tough and it wound up being really hard racing there and Brad (Keselowski) moved me out of the way and I got up out of the groove. And then at the end there, NASCAR must not be able to see the lines on the restart there and the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was way early all day. But all in all, we did what we had to do and I just enjoyed racing that hard.”

Following the checkered flag, Ryan Newman moved up one spot to 12th in the point standings after finishing 18th. That’s the ever so important transfer position. Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola are now in threat of not transferring to the next round. To still be eligible to compete for this year’s championship, they must reach the 12th position in the point standings after next weekend’s race.

The Challenger Round will conclude next weekend at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, September 28. The AAA 400 will be live on ESPN and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 2 p.m. EST.

SYLVANIA 300 Results:
1.) #22 Joey Logano
2.) #42 Kyle Larson
3.) #4 Kevin Harvick
4.) #1 Jamie McMurray
5.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
6.) #43 Aric Almirola
7.) #2 Brad Keselowski
8.) #18 Kyle Busch
9.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10.) #55 Brian Vickers
11.) #3 Austin Dillon
12.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
13.) #47 AJ Allmendinger
14.) #15 Clint Bowyer
15.) #27 Paul Menard
16.) #16 Greg Biffle
17.) #99 Carl Edwards
18.) #31 Ryan Newman
19.) #10 Danica Patrick
20.) #51 Justin Allgaier
21.) #20 Matt Kenseth
22.) #13 Casey Mears
23.) #5 Kasey Kahne
24.) 9 Marcos Ambrose
25.) #40 Landon Cassill
26.) #24 Jeff Gordon
27.) #38 David Gilliland
28.) #23 Alex Bowman
29.) #7 Michael Annett
30.) #14 Tony Stewart
31.) #36 Reed Sorenson
32.) #83 Travis Kvapil
33.) #98 Josh Wise
34.) #66 Mike Wallace
35.) #32 Timmy Hill
36.) #41 Kurt Busch
37.) #11 Denny Hamlin
38.) #26 Cole Whitt
39.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
40.) #33 David Stremme
41.) #77 Corey LaJoie
42.) #34 David Ragan
43.) #93 Clay Rogers

Challenger Round Standings:
1.) #2 Brad Keselowski
2.) #22 Joey Logano -1
3.) #4 Kevin Harvick -7
4.) #48 Jimmie Johnson -17
5.) #18 Kyle Busch -20
6.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -20
7.) #24 Jeff Gordon -27
8.) #20 Matt Kenseth -40
9.) #99 Carl Edwards -40
10.) #47 AJ Allmendinger -41
11.) #5 Kasey Kahne -42
12.) #31 Ryan Newman -42
13.) #11 Denny Hamlin -48
14.) #16 Greg Biffle -48
15.) #41 Kurt Busch -50
16.) #43 Aric Almirola -52

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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