Joey Logano won Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, clinching a spot in the round of eight of NASCAR’s Chase.
Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick qualified for the next round, which will begin next week at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, by virtue of winning races in the second round. The remainder of the Chase field heading to Martinsville includes Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. Hamlin tied Austin Dillon for the eighth spot, but his third-place finish Sunday broke a tiebreaker between the two.
Rookie Brian Scott finished second, with Kurt Busch fourth.
Chase drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski saw their days end early with blown engines, finishing off their hopes of advancing in the Chase. Rookie Chase Elliott, who finished 12th, was also eliminated from the Chase.
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The race appeared to be Brad Keselowski’s to win until the engine of his No. 2 Ford blew on Lap 144. That helped Penske Racing teammate Logano take the lead four laps later, and he didn't trail after that.
How the NASCAR Chase drivers fared (all points will be reset to 4,000 for the third round):
1. Jimmie Johnson (3,100 points)*: Finished 23rd, although he stayed near the front for much of the day and tried to help teammate Chase Elliott finish high enough to make the top eight.
2. Kurt Busch (one behind): Was close to winning the first superspeedway race of his career, but finished fourth and moved on to the round of eight.
3. Joey Logano (11 behind)*: Won Talladega’s fall race for a second consecutive season in clutch fashion, moved into the third round.
4. Matt Kenseth (12 behind): One of four (of four) Joe Gibbs Racing drivers to advance. Played it safe and finished 28th.
5. Kyle Busch (16 behind): Another JGR driver to advance, joined Kenseth and Edwards by driving a cautious race and finishing 30th.
T6. Kevin Harvick (18 behind)*: Like Johnson, he already had a spot clinched in the next round. Was still in position to win late before finishing seventh.
T6. Carl Edwards (18 behind): Stayed safely toward the back with teammates Kenseth and Kyle Busch, finished 29th.
T8. Denny Hamlin (22 behind)**: Finished third by .006-seconds ahead of Kurt Busch, which was good enough – barely – to edge Austin Dillon for the eighth and final spot in the Chase. The two tied, but Hamlin won the tiebreaker with that third-place spot.
T8. Austin Dillon (22 behind): If he had finished eighth instead of barely behind Aric Almirola in ninth, he would have advanced ahead of Hamlin.
10. Martin Truex Jr. (18 out of eighth): Blew an engine early in the race, sending his car to the garage and finishing his hopes for advancing.
11. Chase Elliott (28 out of eighth): Had too many points to overcome to advance out of the 12th-place spot, so his 12th-place finish wasn’t nearly enough.
11. Brad Keselowski (35 out of eighth): Had the strongest car in the race, leading 90 laps before his engine went on Lap 144. That finished his chances in the postseason.
*won second-round race.
**advances by tiebreaker.
▪ Joe Gibbs Racing has been the Cup’s dominant team this season, and that’s been proven out in the Chase. Half the field of eight is comprised of JGR drivers: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Edwards and Kenseth. Busch, Edwards and Kenseth stayed well back all day, staying out of trouble and protecting their spots in the top eight. That strategy succeeded.
▪ Rookie Brian Scott’s second-place finish was the best of his career. Scott and Aric Almirola (eighth) combined for a strong day for Richard Petty Motorsports.
▪ Neither Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Harvick nor Kurt Busch had an explanation for what a postrace disagreement between them was about. According to NBC Sports Network footage, Busch bumped the side of Harvick’s car on the cool-down lap, prompting Harvick to lean into Busch’s car on pit road and apparently shove him.
They said it
“To win in a clutch moment like this to move us on feels really, really good.” – Logano.
Tweets from Sunday’s race:
Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
When: 1 p.m., Sunday.
TV: NBC Sports Network.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.