NASCAR

Joey Logano races into third round of playoffs with Charlotte win

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Joey Logano races into third round of playoffs with Charlotte win

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- Joey Logano has been to victory lane four times this season, and all four trips required him to beat reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The latest win, Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, was a critical and confidence-building victory. He again shrugged off Harvick to earn an automatic berth into the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Harvick, who has 11 second-place finishes this season, has been runner-up to Logano three times. Harvick finished third in Logano's win at Watkins Glen, where Harvick ran out of gas while leading on the last lap.

"When you can beat (Harvick) any day, any time, that's a big deal for us," team owner Roger Penske said. "I think that it was good that we could at least be on a level playing field with him today."

Harvick led 581 laps in the opening round of the Chase and routed the field last week at Dover to advance into the second round. But he never made it to the front at Charlotte, the opening race of the second round of NASCAR's playoffs, as Logano led 227 of the 334 laps.

Now Logano, who made it to the finale last season, doesn't have to worry about this daunting second round of the Chase. The series races next week at Kansas and then four drivers will be eliminated Oct. 25 at Talladega.

"It helps us sleep here the next couple of weeks," Logano said. "This helps us recharge our batteries and get ready for the next round."

He feels good right now, but isn't crowing about his head-to-head success this season with Harvick.

"I think there's a lot of fast race cars out there right now," Logano said. "Last week, obviously, (Harvick) was dominant. This week we had a really fast car. Next week, who knows? You can't rely on anything."

Harvick, who didn't lead a lap of a race that was scheduled for Saturday night but pushed to Sunday afternoon because of rain, was satisfied with second after struggling all weekend.

"If those are the off days, we'll be just fine," Harvick said.

Martin Truex Jr. finished third - his career-best eighth top-five of the season - but wasn't breathing any easier about his Chase hopes.

"Logano is the only one who is going to sleep the next few weeks," Truex said. "We still think we need to win next week."

The top six finishers were Chase drivers as Denny Hamlin finished fourth and was followed by Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards.

Austin Dillon, who is not racing for the title, was seventh. Jeff Gordon, making the final start of his career at Charlotte, struggled for the first half of the race but salvaged an eighth-place finish.

Logano teammate Brad Keselowski staved off a loose wheel over the closing laps as Chase drivers took eight of the top nine spots.

It was a far more difficult day for JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, who started side-by-side on the front row.

Kenseth's race began to unravel when he missed his pit stall and fell back to 20th on a restart. From there, racing in traffic, he had contact with Ryan Newman that sent him into the wall. It was the first of many brushes with the wall for Kenseth, who also had to serve a penalty for too many crewmen working on his car during one of his stops for repairs.

He was finally put out of his misery when a broken part sent him into the wall - again - and to the garage. He finished 42nd and dropped to last in the Chase field.

"Everything kind of snowballed," said the pole-sitter. "This is the best I can do. It's amazing I have a job. One thing led to another and then another."

Things weren't much better for teammate Busch, who started second and was one of the strongest cars for most of the race.

But running third when a caution forced teams to choose a pit strategy, he headed to pit road, then changed his mind at the very last second. Only problem? Kyle Larson, running second, decided at that moment he wanted to duck onto pit road.

The two cars collided and both dropped to the middle of the pack during their respective repairs.

"I'm sure it doesn't matter, but please apologize as much as you can," radioed Larson, who is not running for the championship.

Busch finished 20th and he and Kenseth are now in the bottom four of the Chase standings.

"It's tough, and we're going to have to battle through with what we've got right now," said Busch, who was eliminated in the second round last year because he was wrecked at Talladega in the elimination race.

Hendrick Motorsports could commiserate with the Gibbs issues.

Kasey Kahne, who ran in a 5k Sunday morning for his foundation, suffered two early tire issues that sent him to the garage just 58 laps into the race.

Then contact between Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sent Earnhardt into the wall. He tried to continue on with damage to his Chevrolet, but a tire problem sent him into the wall again and to pit road for repairs on Lap 85. He was one lap down when his car was repaired and wound up 28th.

He's now in the bottom four in the standings.

Jimmie Johnson, who was eliminated from the Chase last week, was the best of the Hendrick group but suffered a mechanical issue late in the race and finished 39th.

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.