With the Hellmann’s 500 going into NASCAR Overtime, fuel becoming an issue in the closing laps, and receiving an early penalty for removing equipment, Joey Logano was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Logano is the lone driver from Team Penske to advance for a championship. This is Logano’s second victory of 2016.
“It’s never a layup here at Talladega. It’s always close. You never get a big lead. A good Shell/Pennzoil Ford. Todd made some good adjustments during the race and found some speed in the car, so that was pretty neat to see some of that. We got that track position and just hung onto it. I was able to stay on the bottom and try to run the bottom and keep everyone in line, and that worked out really well. Kevin did a good job with that, which ultimately got us all a great finish. It was fun racing there at the end. I was really confused. I didn’t know what lane to pick coming to the last restart, but I knew Kevin had a lot of experience in these situations and is great at speedway racing, so he did a good job of pushing me out and then had to defend the top lane with Brian Scott, so a couple of Fords out front here at Talladega is pretty cool,” said Logano in a post race interview.
The first half saw the level of attrition at an all time high. Second-place qualifier, Brad Keselowski, took an early lead fending off three-wide racing behind him. However, Martin Truex Jr. was able to find a hole to challenge Keselowski to the lead, but was unable to gain to the lead. Chase Elliott tried to make his move on Keselowski for numerous laps to capture the lead with help from Greg Biffle and was successful. After leading a couple laps, Keselowski was able to side-draft off Elliott to regain the lead. As the first round of green flag pit stops began, the main draft split in half to go down pit road. Logano was penalized for removing his jack from pit road as Denny Hamlin was penalized for speeding. Truex Jr. had a catastrophic engine failure to bring out the first caution of the day shortly after green-flag stops. When the race went back green, Keselowski regained the lead to block the momentum from the drivers behind him. Keselowski attempted to block Elliott, but Elliott was able to gain the lead. Elliott’s lead lasted shortly as Greg Biffle challanged and gained the lead. Keselowski lost drafting help and dropped back. The field began to settle down and went single file on the high-line. As the field went single-file, Biffle reported a piece of debris on his grill. However, the conga line on the high lane broke as Keselowski dropped out of the line to make a valiant charge to the front. Elliott made a move on the inside of Biffle to regain the lead, and to knock the debris off the grille of Biffle. As green flag pit stops cycled through, Keselowski regained the lead. At the halfway point, Keselowski was the race leader, Ryan Blaney was in second, Kurt Busch was third, Hamlin was fourth, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
As the race entered the halfway point, Elliott tried to reform the bottom line from the Talladega Conga Line, but failed to have more drivers join him. The main draft began to spread out some instead of being bumper-to-bumper. As Keselowski was dealing with overheating, Hamlin and Blaney split Keselowski giving Hamlin the lead. However, the caution flew for a wreck involving Biffle, Casey Mears, and Jeffrey Earnhardt entering into the tri-oval. On the restart, Hamlin was able to get lead and block his lead. However, Keselowski was able to regain the lead. The race returned to the conga line at the top of the racetrack. After a few laps in a single file line, Elliott began to lead a group to form a bottom lane, but the lane never came into fruition. However, Keselowski had another piece of debris on his grille, but used Ryan Blaney to clean that debris off; however, it was too late as Keselowski slowed onto the apron as his engine expired. Logano gained the lead on the restart, but the caution shortly fell for debris on the backstretch. As the race restarted, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who were waiting in the back, began to lose the draft. Landon Cassill saved the field from wrecking in the tri-oval as he got loose. However, Logano was reporting debris on his grille, but that caused no harm. The caution flag flew for an accident in turn three for a spin by Kasey Kahne involving Trevor Bayne and Jamie McMurray. On the restart, Logano and Harvick were head-to-head, but the caution flew for a spin by Alex Bowman. Under the caution flag, many drivers were concerned about fuel, but fuel was no issue, resulting in a victory for Logano. Brian Scott finished second, Hamlin finished third, Ku. Busch finished fourth, and Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series saw four drivers having to wait another year. Keselowski was knocked out after his engine blew on lap for waiting too long to get debris off his grille. Truex Jr. also saw his chances for a championship diminish after his engine went sour on lap 43 shortly after the completion of green-flag pit stops. Austin Dillon’s championship hopes were dashed as the checkered flag flew. Dillon lost in a tiebreaker with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was able to beat Kurt Busch by .006 seconds after Harvick let off the gas to avoid wrecking Hamlin. Despite having a 12th place finish, Elliott needed a win to advance, but could not get the drafting help to make a charge to the front.
The drivers who advanced will have their points reset to 4000. Logano will be the top seed, followed by, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Kenseth, Edwards, Hamlin, Ku. Busch, and Ky. Busch. The eliminated Chase drivers show Truex Jr. in the top-position. Keselowski is 23 points back from Truex, A. Dillon is 28 points behind, Elliott is 35 points behind, Kyle Larson is 36 points behind, Tony Stewart is 50 points behind, McMurray is 81 points behind, and Chris Buescher is 82 points behind.
The race saw an average speed of 159.905 mph. The time of race was 3 hours, 11 minutes, and 38 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.124 mph. There were 31 lead changes among 14 drivers. The caution flew six times for 25 laps. Only three drivers were listed as out of the race. Only 14 penalties were assessed on pit road. 34 cars were able to finish on the lead lap.
All cars passed post-race inspection. 10 of the 12 Chase drivers were inspected as the cars of Keselowski and Truex were not fit to be inspected. Logano, Scott, Hamlin, A. Dillon, and Stenhouse Jr. are being taken back the R&D center for further inspection.
Despite having engine issues, Keselowski was able to lead the most laps at 90. Logano was able to lead 45 laps, Biffle led 13 laps, Hamlin led 12 laps, Elliott led nine laps, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael Annett were able to lead six laps, Blaney was able to lead three laps, Ky. Busch and Truex Jr. led two laps, and A. Dillon, Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Tony Stewart all led one lap.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be at trip to Martinsville Speedway for the Goodys Fast Relief 500. Coverage from Martinsville will begin on Friday with first practice at 11:00 a.m. EST on NBCSN.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits wind and arrives at Talladega Superspeedway for the final race in the “Round of 12” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans from all 50 states and 22 countries around the world will embark on Alabama for the Hellman’s 500. This race kicks off the second half of the Chase.
42 drivers are currently slated to qualify for the race, but only 40 drivers will start on Sunday. Ryan Reed will be entering a fourth Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“I can’t wait to get to Talladega. To be this close to achieving a goal of mine is huge. I know our Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association team has been working really hard to bring a stout piece to the track. Our goal is to go out there and keep our nose clean, run all of the laps, earn some respect and hopefully be in contention for a solid finish at the end,” said Reed.
Talladega Superspeedway is the largest and steepest track on the NASCAR circuit at 2.66-miles in length and is banked at 33 degrees. After Daytona was built in 1959, Bill France Sr. wanted to build something bigger and better for the stars of NASCAR to race on. The speedway hosted its first event in 1969.
There have been 94 races ran at Talladega. 39 drivers have won a pole at the famed speedway. Earlier this year, Chase Elliott became the youngest driver to win a pole, while Mark Martin was the oldest driver to win a pole set back in 2011. 45 drivers have claimed victory with Bobby Hillin Jr being the youngest winner and Harry Gant being the oldest. 13 drivers have won the race from the pole; Jeff Gordon was the last driver to do in 2007. in 1997, Mark Martin set the race record at 188.354 mph. The qualifying record, which will never be broken due to the restrictor plate, is owned by Bill Elliott, who set the speed in 1987, at 212.809 mph.
Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are the only Chase drivers that have immunity this weekend. The four driver currently out of advancement include Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott. Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Joey Logano are the bottom three drivers in jeopardy of elimination.
Drivers are frightened yet excited to be returning to Talladega.
“The thing about going to a superspeedway like Daytona or Talladega is obviously not getting involved in a wreck since the chances of being caught up in one is so much higher at those tracks. You also need to have a fast race car in order to have a successful day there. There have been many times lately that we’ve had fast Toyotas that were able to keep their position towards the front and sometimes it works out and other times it just doesn’t. At Talladega, you need a car that’s fast enough to pull the pack and stay out front in order to have a greater chance of success. It’s just too easy for people to get shuffled out and back into the pack where then you’re fighting to get back up to the front. You can’t ever really predict when or where a wreck if going to happen, so to me the best strategy is to go there with the fastest car that you can possibly build and hopefully get to the front and stay out there,” said Matt Kenseth, driver of the no. 20, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“I have yet to win one of the points-paying races at a restrictor-plate racetrack. This one is tough because it’s a Chase race. Winning versus finding a consistent finish is such a razor-blade edge versus wrecking. We can’t have a wreck take us out of advancing through the Chase. One year in the Chase, I tried going for a win, got spun at the end and I kicked myself for years afterward. In 2009, I was going for a win instead of just trying to ride it out for a better finish and it took me from second in points back to fourth in points. Over the years, Talladega has just turned into a points-gathering race in the fall,” said Ku. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
Friday at Talladega is practice day. All practices, qualifying, and the race will be live on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network. The first practice will be at 2:00 p.m. EST and the final practice session will be at 4:30 p.m EST. Qualifying will be held after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at approximately 4:00 p.m. The Hellman’s 500 will hit airwaves at 2:00 p.m EST.
Fire up the scanner, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Chicagoland with the question, “The Chase for the Sprint Cup has had its defining moments over the past two years, what are your expectations for the 2016 chase?”
My expectations going into the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup is that it will be one of the best we have ever seen. With the exception of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, there isn't really one particular driver that stands out, which will make this Chase very exciting to follow all throughout these last 10 races. I expect it to be a very tight battle to the end.
One of the things I've learned following this sport for the past five years is that you can't really expect anything to happen because anything can and will happen. There are some drivers in the lineup that won at the tracks with more than one race on the schedule, like Dover, Charlotte and Kansas, just to name a few. That doesn't mean they will repeat but they sure could. Sometimes, things are a little different in the fall than they are in the spring so I think you really can't bank on repeat winners in the same year.
I'm really not expecting anyone to dominate. I think we'll know after Chicago where these drivers stand for the remaining nine weeks, which will just fly by.
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson are waking up after winning the last few races of the season. I think they'll continue to run well but I'm not expecting them to dominate.
Joey Logano swept the Round of 12 (Charlotte, Kansas, Talladega) a year ago. He's been a little quiet this season with only one win in June at Michigan, but he could possibly show up and do it again.
Chris Buescher made it in with a little luck on his side at the August Pocono race. I don't think he'll make it to the championship four, but I sure think he'll make it past the round of 16.
Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray have not yet won this season but they are in on points. I really don't know what will happen with them. I think they can pull off top fives and top 10's but I just don't see them going far. Of course, they could be the ones to shake things up.
One other thing to remember is that there are 24 other drivers looking to crash the Chase party. Just because they are not in championship contention doesn't mean they can't pull off a win or a top finish.
This Chase is so unpredictable and it'll be interesting to see where things stand after round one. Right now, I really have no idea what's going to happen.
My expectations for the 2016 Chase are to see more of what we already have this season, as well as the past couple seasons. Toyota dominance and the championship coming down to the final lap. Just like always, right?
As the Chase kicks off in Chicago this weekend, the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are the odds on favorites. Add Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr., who is basically a JGR teammate, and you have five of the 16 drivers that make up the Chase field.
Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson will also be tough to beat. Harvick and Keselowski have showed dominance throughout the season, whereas Larson has come on as of late after his win at Michigan.
In 2014, Harvick won the Ford EcoBoost 400 and his first championship by one point and one position over Ryan Newman. In 2015, Kyle Busch won the Ford EcoBoost 400 and his first championship by one point and one position over Ryan Newman. Sense a theme?
So that means that *insert first time champion here* will win the race and the championship by one point and one position over Kyle Busch, right?
I'm not sure, and I don't think anyone is. But one thing is for certain: The Chase is on.
The Chase is on! I have learned one thing participating in this sport since birth is that you have to expect the unexpected. This sport is probably one of the most unpredictable sports to predict because it is a sport of man and machine.
The past two years of this current format have produced defining “quintessential” moments for the sport. In 2014, you had Keselowski against Kenseth and Gordon at Charlotte and Texas. In 2015, you had Logano dominating the Round of Eight, but getting punted at Martinsville by Kenseth, who ended up with a two race suspension from NASCAR.
This year I expect it to be one of the best Chase for the Sprint Cup we have seen. Why? You have so many storylines from Chris Buescher to Tony Stewart to the dominance from Toyota. We will see someone move on into the Championship Four based on consistency. These last ten races will have a defining moment, but I will expect the unexpected for the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup
Fire up the scanner, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Richmond with the question, “With the Chase Grid being set up this weekend at Richmond, who has the stamina and potential to fill the remaining three spots?"
Brett Winningham: The remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup spots will be interesting to follow all evening long in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.You have the young guns of Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott and the series veteran Jamie McMurray in the Chase via points going into the cutoff. Will this stand? I think so. Especially since Ryan Newman was hit with a points penalty after failing post-race inspection on Saturday at Darlington. The only way I see Newman or anyone else getting into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs is if they leave Richmond victorious or one of the three drivers in via points find themselves having a rough night.Another thing to consider is the situation ongoing with Chris Buescher. Buescher, who won the rain shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway, sits 30th in points by only 11 points ahead of David Ragan. A fourth spot to get into the Chase via points could open up if Buescher finds himself into trouble. The Texas native must finish inside the top 30 in points in order to lock himself into the Chase. Though I think Buescher will leave Richmond with a good enough finish to finish the regular season inside the top 30.
Katie Williams: It is really too close to call. I believe performance on pit road will be one if not the biggest keys. Worst-case scenario is that Chris Buescher has a problem and falls out of the top 30 in points, but I don't see that happening. Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon are still after their first win of the whole season so it will be interesting to see whether they go on offense to stay in the top 16 or defense trying to get that first trip to Victory Lane. I think both of them have the stamina to get the job done in either fashion. Jamie McMurray is on the chopping block so he needs to not falter and Ryan Newman is in danger of a penalty and a points deduction after failing post-race laser inspection at Darlington. I try not to go off what drivers did in the previous race at a particular track but Kasey Kahne placed fifth in the spring race at Richmond so he may have a shot to pull off an upset. I feel like Ryan Blaney and AJ Allmendinger have to pull off a win to make it in. I think I'll be watching the NBC ticker more than the actual race.
Davey Segal: Out of the drivers who haven't officially clinched a playoff spot, I think three young guns are capable of doing the most damage. Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney. Let's take a glance at all of them heading into Richmond. Elliott: the No. 24 car, and team, have been the most consistent team at Hendrick Motorsports in 2016. If you thought that would be the case before Daytona, I applaud you. I, for one, had Blaney winning the ROY. However, Elliott has dazzled in his first full-time season in Cup. A couple second-place finishes and a handful of top five runs will put him in victory lane sooner rather than later. Perhaps even into the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dillon: the No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing has also been the most consistent car at RCR this season. Early on, he was knocking on the door for a win. But since then, he has faded back into the mid-teens week after week. With that being said, Slugger Labbe is the right man to lead that team. And with Dillon winning some races in the Xfinity series and now being an engaged man, I think he could be one of the surprises in this season's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Blaney: the No. 21 is basically a Team Penske car, and Blaney has performed like it in 2016. Coming off his career-best fourth-place finish at Michigan, he followed it up with a solid top-20 run at the track Too Tough to Tame. All it takes is one win for a driver and team to get hot. And Ryan Blaney can do just that.
Caleb Whisler: This is the time of the year where mistakes and penalties become costly. We are just one race away from setting probably one of the craziest chases we have seen. We have three distinct storylines coming in: those who are in, those who are on the bubble, and the race to stay within the top-30. I believe that the chase grid we see now in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is set with Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Jamie McMurray filling out the remaining three positions on the grid. Ryan Newman had a chance but the only way he can get in now is through a win because of his points penalty following Darlington for failing post-race laser inspection. I was a little hesitant about Chris Buescher and Front Row Motorsports, but because of more funding from Ford Performance. Barring someone has a major struggle this weekend at Richmond, we are set for a fun and exciting Chase for the Sprint Cup. Consistency will continue to be the major key throughout the next ten weeks. The Chase is on!
Jimmie Johnson will lead the field to green as he won his first pole of 2015 at Phoenix on Friday. Johnson had not won a pole in the last 58 Cup races, dating back to Charlotte in May of 2014. Coming off of a victory in Texas, the No. 48 is ending the season on a hot streak.
Though he has five wins on the season, Johnson has only won once since the end of May. If he isn’t in the hunt for the championship, he wants to spoil it for all of the teams who are remaining in the Chase.
“We didn’t have the summer that we wanted, but these guys have been working so hard on the No. 48 team,” Johnson said. “I’m very happy to see the progress and the direction things are going. It’s been a little bit everywhere and if we keep doing that, we’ll close the season out the way we want to.”
Johnson stated that the new reconfiguration of the one-mile flat track has been very tough on him. Although on Friday, Johnson was the quickest in opening practice and set a new track record in his qualifying lap at 25.147 seconds.
Kurt Busch was in the top three in all three rounds of qualifying, and was the quickest in round two. However, he came up one position short in a race that the No. 41 team needs to win in order to advance to race for the championship in Homestead.
“You always want to get the pole, it’s a feather in the team’s hat to wear all weekend,” Busch said of being so close to winning his fourth pole of 2015. “For us to be outside pole in the Haas Automation Chevy it means a lot of all the hard work that’s gone into the car and the car showed a lot of speed in race-trim as well.”
It was an unusual third-place qualifying effort for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has publicly stated that he is a poor qualifier, but in all three rounds his car was steady. He is looking for his first win at Phoenix since 2004.
Carl Edwards is coming into one of his favorite race tracks needing to make up seven points on the cutoff in order to advance to Homestead. On Friday, the No. 19 team had a fourth-place qualifying effort and is looking for his third career win in the Arizona desert.
The current cutoff driver is the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. In a track where Truex has more last-place(2), then top-five finishes(1), the No. 78 team is hoping that a test last month will help them improve on Truex’s career statistics in Phoenix. Truex has been the dark horse all season long, and is looking for a Cinderella ending to advance to race for his first career championship.
“We adjusted quite a bit,” Truex said of his qualifying effort after being just quick enough to advance into round two. “The thing was we knew that we were going to be off that first run just because our car for whatever reason was really bad on stickers. It was like that in practice. After that, the second and third run it was really good.”
Truex believes that his car is better during race runs and expects to be better than fifth on Sunday.
Seven-time Phoenix winner, Kevin Harvick will start eighth on Sunday. Harvick has won all three Phoenix races since joining Stewart-Haas Racing and won in the fall of 2013 behind the No. 29 car. He is the heavy favorite for the 312-lap event and is looking to punch his ticket to Homestead and compete for his second-consecutive championship.
After missing the spring race in Phoenix, Kyle Busch was 10th fastest in qualifying on Friday. The former winner in the desert is looking to clinch a spot to race for his first championship and heading into Sunday he is 11 points ahead of fifth-place.
“We need to be better than 10th,” Busch said. “I’m not so sure that 10th is going to get it done for us. We unloaded really good, better than we have in the past. I feel like as a company we unloaded better. That’s thanks to Matt Kenseth and the No. 20 team for coming out here and giving us a good test. We need to get it where I can run probably seventh or better.”
The only driver that is worry-free this weekend is Jeff Gordon. After being fastest in the first round of qualifying, the No. 24 team faltered to 11th on the speed chart in round three. After Phoenix renamed the track Jeff Gordon Raceway this weekend, Gordon will look to be first at the checkers.
“We’re just trying to get ourselves ready to go battle it out in Homestead, in order to do that we’ve got to be fierce, and aggressive and push hard,” Gordon said of this weekend. “I thought we made gains from practice. It was a solid day for us. We’re just approaching it to go out and win.”
The only Chase drivers to qualify outside of the top 12, was the Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. The No. 22 will start from 14th, after the No. 2 will begin Sunday from the 18th position.
Both of these drivers are in “must win” situations in order to advance to Homestead. After sweeping the Contender Round, Logano has not had a good Eliminator Round. After being involved in the incident with Matt Kenseth in Martinsville and the cut tire at Texas, Logano is in a huge hole and the only thing he can do is win at a track that he’s never won at before. Mathematically, Keselowski can still point himself in, but would need an absolute prayer and it’s unrealistic. The No. 2 team’s best shot to advance was last weekend in Texas when they lead 312 laps, but finished second to Johnson.
Both teams were also outside of the top 10 in practice and will need to make adjustments to have race winning cars.
“I wish we could have run a little faster,” Logano said. “We were close, just a little over a hundredth would have put us in the next round. We still need to find quite a bit more speed to go faster. We just didn’t go fast enough.”
If Sunday’s race at Phoenix is anything like last year’s cutoff race it will come down to the last lap in who advances to Homestead.