Logano wins wild elimination race at Phoenix
Joey Logano has always believed in second chances.
He received the latest one at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday when a late-race caution sent the Can-Am 500 into overtime.
Logano took the lead, the win and advanced to the Championship 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“This feels so good,” Logano said. “I've never felt this good about a win before. There was so much on the line and everyone brings their A-game when it comes to winning championships and this team did it. Man, this feels so good.
“I had a good restart there at the end and holding off Kyle (Busch) to try to get this thing into Miami. We're racing for a championship now. We did exactly what we had to do. We've got to go to Homestead and do the same thing. I couldn't be more proud of this team.”
Logano in the hot seat during closing laps
Logano didn’t have the dominant car in the closing stages of the race. With 20 laps remaining in the race, Logano had fallen back to fourth and was being challenged by Kevin Harvick. With Kyle Busch ahead of him, had he lost the position it would have been the difference between advancing to the final four or not.
Logano was barely holding Harvick off when Michael McDowell spun in Turn 3 on Lap 311 — with one lap remaining in the race. The eighth caution of the day bunched up the field and set up the end for a green-white checkered finish.
The race returned to green with Matt Kenseth at the point for the Lap 217 restart. Kenseth took the top lane, Alex Bowman was below and Kyle Busch attempted to take the front of the pack three-wide entering Turn 1. Kenseth, who was cleared by his spotter, came down on Bowman then went for a spin.
When NASCAR reset the field for the second attempt at overtime, Logano had the lead followed by Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Alex Bowman. The race returned to green on Lap 321 and Logano checked out, Busch pulled in behind him and Larson battled Harvick to hang on for third.
At the checkered flag
Logano beat Busch to the line by 0.587-seconds for his third win of the season and his 17th Cup victory in 290 starts. Larson was third followed by Harvick and Kurt Busch.
While Logano moved on with the win, defending champion Kyle Busch was the fourth driver to transfer to the Chase — and the only driver to advance on points.
“We ran like crap, salvaged a decent finish and got in,” Busch said. “We’ll go to Homestead and see if we can’t defend.”
After the race, NASCAR announced Busch's No. 18 Toyota had one loose lug nut. Crew chief Adam Stevens will receive a $10,000 fine for the infraction but it will not change the team's Chase eligibility.
The race was slowed by nine cautions — the first occurring on the first lap when Larson slid into Logano and spun out in Turn 3. Logano, who started fourth, restarted second behind Bowman when the race returned to green.
Larson triggered the next caution on Lap 82 when he tangled with Ryan Newman entering pit road. After two debris cautions, the fifth caution occurred on the Lap 218 restart when Greg Biffle ran into the rear of Austin Dillon. Jimmie Johnson received the worst damage and ended up in the garage with a damaged radiator. Although he returned to the track, Johnson finished 38th. With his win at Martinsville, Johnson had nothing to lose on Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr., who had been penalized earlier in the day for a controversial pit road violation, was battling Newman for the lucky dog on Lap 256 when the drivers wrecked in Turn 1. Truex, who started last after failing to qualify, finished in the same position.
Denny Hamlin took the lead under caution by staying out on the track. On old tires he was immediately passed by Kenseth on the Lap 262 restart. Hamlin dropped back through the field and finished seventh.
But it was McDowell’s spin in Turn 3 with one lap remaining in the race that ignited the penultimate caution and changed the complexion of the Chase. After leading 55 laps, Kenseth wrecked but finished 21st. Still, he watched his title hopes evaporate.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Kenseth said. “I just got through the gears and it was the last restart of the day and I knew they had more than a car length behind me so I just got going and tried to get going early.
“The spotter said I was clear and I came to the bottom in turn one because I certainly wanted to be at the bottom and be in front of him going into turn two and then I was in the wall. I don’t really know any more than that.” From Kenseth's spotter:
Bowman, who led a race-high 194 laps, felt bad that he was involved in the incident. But it clearly was not his fault.
"If his spotter cleared him, then he wasn't quite clear," Bowman said. "It's really hard. I've spotted some races before and it's not fun, especially getting into Turn 1 there. That's got to be really tough.
"Apologies to Matt and all the Matt Kenseth fans out there. You don't want see a guy wrecked out of the Chase like that. I would have liked to have just raced him for the win there. I think we had a shot to win the race and that ruined our day, too.”
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