ThatsRacin

Joey Logano dominates rain-delayed NASCAR race at Charlotte

dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Joey Logano dominated Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, winning the Bank of America 500 and clinching a spot in the third round of NASCAR’s Chase.

Logano’s victory, coming in the first race of the playoffs’ second round, was his first in 14 Cup starts at Charlotte.

“This helps us sleep the next couple of weeks,” Logano said.

Kevin Harvick finished second – his 11th runner-up finish of the season. Martin Truex Jr. was third and Denny Hamlin fourth. Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola were the only non-Chase drivers among the top 10, finishing seventh and 10th, respectively.

The race – postponed by rain from Saturday night – was tough on three Chase drivers. Kyle Busch, after a wreck with Kyle Larson entering pit road, was 20th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 28th and pole-winner Matt Kenseth 42nd.

The top eight from the second round will advance to the third round. The second race of the Chase’s round will be next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Turning point

Logano took the lead on Lap 77 from Kenseth and showed his strength the rest of the way. He would lead 227 of 334 laps.

Chase update

How the NASCAR Chase drivers fared:

1. Joey Logano (3,048 points): Race winner has few worries over the next few weeks with a berth in third round of Chase assured.

2. Kevin Harvick (6 points behind): Quietly finished second for the 11th time this season. His car wasn’t as dominant as it has been recently, but he stayed out of trouble, something he didn’t do during first round.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (7 behind): Was fortunate when gas can that had been dropped during pit stop late in the race didn’t cross line into next stall. That would have been a penalty. As it was Truex finished third and is in solid position heading to Kansas.

4. Denny Hamlin (8 behind): Started fifth and finished fourth. He has had top-five-caliber car for most of the Chase.

5. Kurt Busch (9 behind): Not hearing much about Busch and his No. 41 Chevy, but he has been consistent during the playoffs. Fifth place Sunday confirms that.

6. Carl Edwards (9 behind): His car made contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s early, but otherwise he had a quiet day and finished sixth.

7. Jeff Gordon (11 behind): His No. 24 Chevy was giving him problems early, but he stuck it out and finished eighth.

8. Brad Keselowski (13 behind): Reported what he feared was a loose wheel with nine laps left, but he was able to come home ninth.

9. Ryan Newman (19 behind): Nothing went terribly wrong for Newman, other than making contact briefly with Kenseth, but he finished 15th and finds himself among the bottom four.

10. Kyle Busch (23 behind): Wreck entering pit road with Kyle Larson knocked him out of contention, and he eventually finished 20th.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (32 behind): Had a rough time of it all day, hitting the wall on Lap 69, then again at least once more and eventually finished four laps down in 28th.

12. Matt Kenseth (45 behind): Troubles for pole-winner began when he hit the wall after tangling with Newman on Lap 175. He had a pit-road penalty a while later and eventually went to the garage on Lap 240 after banging wall again when right front tire went down. Finished 42nd.

Observations

▪ Drivers such as Earnhardt and Kyle Busch, who were able to briefly breath easier after working so hard to advance into the second round last week at Dover, Del., find themselves back in similar predicaments heading to Kansas, the second race of the second round. At least one is going have to rely on a victory or strong finish in two weeks at Talladega, Ala.

▪ It seems odd not to see Jimmie Johnson among those in the Chase. Johnson, eliminated last week in Dover when a part broke in his No. 48 Chevy, was having a typically strong run at Charlotte until something again went wrong – this time in his engine late in the race. His crew pushed the car to the garage, where its day ended in 39th place.

▪ Lots of risks were taken by drivers all day, but none greater than those by daredevil Erendira Wallenda before the race. Wallenda was suspended approximately 150 feet above the infield (without a net) on an aerial ring hanging by a cable under a helicopter. At one point, Wallenda was hanging upside down, using only her toes.

They said it

“We know we can beat them.” – Logano, on Harvick’s team, which consistently had the fastest car of the Chase’s first round.

“Talladega is still there. Third is great and all, but it’s no guarantee.” – Truex.

“These are never the kind of days you want to have, for sure.” – Kenseth.

Next race

Hollywood Casino 400

Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.

When: 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

TV: NBC

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

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