NASCAR

NASCAR: Joey Logano wins third straight race at Talladega

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NASCAR: Joey Logano wins third straight race at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- As Joey Logano made his third straight trip to victory lane, questions swirled about reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick's late-race tactics.

Several competitors accused Harvick of intentionally causing a race-ending caution Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, where Logano completed a sweep of the second round of NASCAR's playoffs.

It came at the expense of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship at his best track for the second consecutive year. Earnhardt led a race-high 61 laps, but had to settle for second in a race he had to win when the Harvick-triggered crash ended the race under caution.

NASCAR's most popular driver did not question his fate.

"When the race is over, I can live with the result as long as everyone else is going by the same rules," Earnhardt said. "I felt like per the rule book, it sorted out and I finished second. I'm OK with that."

NASCAR said this week it would make just one attempt at Talladega to finish the race under green instead of the usual three tries in a nod toward creating a safer racing environment. Drivers were almost unanimous in their support of the change, even when it came into play in a race that cut four drivers from the Chase field.

Eliminated Sunday were Earnhardt, Ryan Newman - the runner-up to Harvick last year - and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. JGR was considered a heavy favorite in this Chase after a dominating regular season, but had two of four drivers eliminated Sunday and both were furious with Harvick.

Harvick had radioed to his crew under caution that a mechanical issue was preventing him from accelerating. But if he moved out of the way, he risked falling to the back of the field and potentially being knocked out of the Chase.

So he instead stayed put, and when his car failed to take off on the restart, he hit Trevor Bayne as Bayne tried to dart around him and it triggered a wreck that brought out the caution to end the race. Earnhardt was unable to race Logano for the win once the caution was called.

"It was a pretty tough ending. (He) knew he was blowing up and told everybody he was going to stay in his lane," Kenseth said. "It just feels like we kind of lost control of the situation."

Denny Hamlin echoed the sentiments of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. He was caught in the accident and had to climb from his flaming car, and said after that Harvick caused the wreck rather than risk losing positions on the track that would knock him out of the Chase.

"The 4 could only run about 30 miles an hour, I think he saw people coming and he knew he was so probably going to be 30th, the last car on the lead lap, so he caused the wreck," said Hamlin.

He had a far more scathing take on Twitter after he was eliminated from the Chase. Joe Gibbs Racing, the heavy favorites in this championship race, instead had two of its four drivers knocked out of the playoffs on Sunday.

"What a joke we have a car with no motor wreck the field to end the race. Complete crap. Sorry to anyone who spent $ coming to this circus," Hamlin tweeted.

NASCAR reviewed video of the final restart several times with different team owners and crew chiefs following the race, and president Mike Helton said officials did not find anything amiss from Harvick.

"There is no evidence right now that there was anything that the 4 car did that was questionable," Helton said.

Bayne felt Harvick's act was deliberate.

"Harvick is a really good driver," Bayne said. "I think he knows the limits of his car and where it's at, so that's why I think it was intentional."

Harvick said his issue was a broken exhaust pipe and "at the end, I was trying to get out of the way."

Logano, who won at Charlotte, Kansas and now Talladega in this round of the Chase, was showered in beer as he made his way to victory lane for the third consecutive week. It wasn't a celebration from the pro-Earnhardt crowd, but Logano didn't mind as he steered his Ford toward the cans being hurled in his direction.

"I was aiming for them ... it's kind of a cool explosion when you hit beer cans," he said. "Kind of a shame they're throwing their beers full. It was like it was raining out there. But that's OK. Everyone's passionate about their driver. That's what makes our sport great."

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.