Joey Logano cashed in more than just a paycheck in Sunday’s Bank of America 500. The 24-year-old sealed his spot into Round 3 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship after dominating Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading 227 laps to earn his fourth win of 2015.
”Our team kept their heads up, stayed confident,” Logano said. “We know we can beat [Harvick]. We know we got what we have to do over here. This is a big weight lifted off our shoulder as a team.
“You always want to win on your home turf. Charlotte is everyone’s home turf and you want to make it happen here. What a great car to lead a ton of laps.”
Along with a home win, Logano sleeps well leading into Talladega Superspeedway which will end Round 2 of the Chase in two weeks.
“This makes Talladega way easier,” Logano admitted. “I know it’s on everyone’s minds when this round starts. Last year, I won Kansas when it was the first race of this round and now we’re able to get it this time at Charlotte.”
Logano bested Kevin Harvick simply got the job done one week ago at Dover, fighting his way into this second round with a clutch win. The reigning champion came home with a strong points day, finishing second, saying he was unable to pass Logano through traffic.
“I could hang with him,” Harvick said. “I would just lose him every once in a while in traffic. Just extremely hard to pass. All-in-all, we weren’t very good all weekend. The guys just did a great job on pit road. If those are the of days, well be just fine.”
Martin Truex, Jr. came home third, his best finish since Michigan in August. An eighth top 5 of 2015 is the most in a single season in the Chaser’s career. He heads to Kansas Speedway 12 points above the Chase cutoff.
Matt Kenseth started from pole and seemed to be on rails in the early going, leading 73 laps. However, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver got stuck in traffic when pit strategy became a factor, leading to multiple run-ins with Ryan Newman and an eventual 42nd-place result.
“I thought I left [Newman] plenty of room,” Kenseth said, “and next thing I knew I was pointed toward the fence. There is not a ton of room over there but I thought there was enough room for three of us and I just got in the right rear and put it in the wall. After that, we had a front end bent and we just finally blew a tire.”
Kenseth sits 12th in points, 32 markers behind the cutoff spot of Brad Keselowski in eighth.
“You do the best you can every week,” Kenseth said. “If this is the best I can do, it’s amazing I have a job.”
Another tough break in the JGR camp hit Kyle Busch during a Lap 195 caution when himself and Kyle Larson made contact while faking each other into pit lane. Busch would lose a lap and finish 20th.
“[My team] don’t deserve to be put in these situations year-in, year-out but we are for some reason. It’s tough and we’re going to have to battle through with what we got right now.”
Busch expressed frustration as oil left on the race track by Justin Allgaier caused Busch to hit the wall.
“Cant pass anybody,” he said. “Single-lane race track, then you put oil on the top lane to try and make anything happen. Then you put yourself in the fence. Thanks to NASCAR for cleaning that up. Every single year it keeps going the same way.”
Busch sits 10th in points, 10 makers behind the cutoff heading into a historically tough track for the JGR driver.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a similarly difficult afternoon, hitting the wall multiple times and running into the unattended oil, leading to a 28th-place finish.
“I lost count how many times we hit [the wall] today,” Earnhardt said. “[Contact with Edwards] put us in the wall the first time and then [NASCAR] didn’t clean up the oil and we hit the wall again.”
Earnhardt now sits 11th in points, 19 points behind the cutoff.
“A lot of oil up there, they put oil, or they thought there was oil,” he continued. “I went around the speedy dry where they laid it on the track and man I flew into the fence. Ran over all kinds of fluid. I couldn’t see it but maybe the shadows were giving them a hard time to see, also.”
The 500-mile race was postponed due to rain on Saturday night. In the heat of the day, the restart zone brought drama was chain-reaction collisions populated the race’s start and restarts.
Additionally, there was many issues for drivers in staying out of the Turn 2 wall. Kasey Kahne, Sam Hornish, Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson and others ran into some trouble during the day in Turns 1 and 2.
Though just an eighth-place finish, Jeff Gordon was upbeat of the team’s final result saying he “couldn’t be happier” with their effort.
“We didn’t even start the race off very good,” said Gordon who made his final start at Charlotte, “let alone starting 22nd didn’t help us out. [The team] made some incredible adjustments. The pit crew was rock solid on pit road. Overall, it was a great team effort. Everybody wants to be sitting there where the [No.] 22 is. That’s a great place to be, especially with Talladega looming.
“I couldn’t be happier with the entire effort that we put out there today.”
The race saw multiple non-Chasers contend in the top 5 and top 10. Austin Dillon was driving off the momentum of a XFINITY Series victory on Friday night as the No. 3 Chevrolet finishing seventh, the highest of the non-Chasers. Aric Almirola grabbed his sixth top-10 finish in tenth along with Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Blaney who fought for top-15 results.