Strong going forward: Joey Logano finished third and led a race-high 86 laps. He also might have won if had he done better on the final restart on Lap 184. But the power of his Penske Racing Ford gave him hope for the rest of the season.
“That we can win a championship,” Logano said of what he took from the race. “I really feel like we can do that. That is the message I want to put out there, and I want to put it out there for my team – that we are strong enough to do it this year. I think we showed it.”
You listen here: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin got in a disagreement after Earnhardt pushed Hamlin up into the wall. Hamlin had words for Earnhardt after the race.
“It was just frustration on my part,” said Hamlin, who finished seventh. “I’m trying to fight – do everything I can – to keep up with the Hendrick engines. I’m side-drafting down the straightaway, doing everything I can. Not things I frown upon when I see other drivers do them.
“(Earnhardt) got a little upset that I was (doing that), so he crowded me up to the wall in Turn 4. I was a little disappointed, but that’s part of it.”
Hello?!? Newman: Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman also exchanged words after an on-track incident.
“Oh, it was just normal Ryan Newman stuff,” Johnson said. “Anybody who has watched this sport long enough or has been in a race car out there understands the frustration that comes along with racing Ryan.”
Five more join party: Five drivers clinched spots in the Chase: Hamlin, Aric Almirola (who finished 20th), AJ Allmendinger (13th), Kurt Busch (31st) and Kyle Busch (39th). Each has the one victory that assures a spot.
• Three races – Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond – remain until the Chase begins. The new format doesn’t allow for much lead-up drama, with the only real issues coming on how the field will be seeded. Seems like the top seed will come down to Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski or Johnson (all three-time winners). A trio of two-time winners, which includes Logano, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards, might also slip into that conversation.
• More and more drivers are voicing support for Tony Stewart, including Harvick and Gordon, who addressed it after the race. Gordon and Johnson have said they have texted Stewart but understandably haven’t heard back.
• The race was run under cloudy skies after it rained overnight. A small shower stayed to the west for much of the day, never moving closer than about 10 miles from the track.
Five key moments
1. Joey Logano, starting second, takes the lead from pole-winner Jeff Gordon on the first lap.
2. Kyle Larson hits the wall on Lap 98, setting his car on fire. Larson is OK.
3. Logano takes the lead back from Ryan Newman on Lap 108, staying ahead of the pack for 32 laps, the longest lead of the day for any driver.
4. Brad Keselowski, who had briefly led, wrecks in Turn 1 on Lap 169, causing caution No. 6.
5. Kurt Busch hits the wall on Lap 179, forcing a caution. With 17 laps left, Gordon beats Logano on the final restart and cruises to the victory.
Unofficial results and points standings