Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Roger Penske Shell Pennzoil Ford, raced to a win at Kansas Motor Speedway Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400.
Logano celebrated his fifth win of the season and advances on the new NASCAR chase grid as he battles for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
Drivers and fans alike are adjusting to the new stresses that come with NASCAR’s new format that puts the main focus on winning, not just a consistent points day at the track.
“This (new format) is definitely not less stress, I can promise you that,” Logano said. “I think it just depends on what shoes you’re in. We’ve had an average finish of 2.5 through the first four races of the chase. Of course we don’t want our points washed away. But if you’re in a different position and just barely make it in, you’re going to want those points washed out and have a shot at it.”
In previous years, the chase was composed of 12 drivers with the highest number of points, which allowed drivers who have had good and consistent days at track to make it into the championship chase without having a win. In 2014, NASCAR changed the game by making winning not just count more, but count for everything. The catch-phrase for the chase: “You win and you’re in.”
The new chase format is a four-round series and includes 16 drivers. Round one features three races called the challenger round, which included races at Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. After Dover, four drivers were eliminated from the chase, leaving 12 contenders vying for the championship. Round two, called the contender round, consists of another three races at Kansas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talledega, where another four drivers will be eliminated from championship hopes. The final eight enter the third round, named the eliminator round, which will be hosted by Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, where the final four will be determined. Last, four drivers will enter the final championship round, where the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion will be the driver who has the best finish at Homestead-Miami out of the remaining chase racers.
The 16 drivers who earned their way into the chase for the championship by either winning or having the highest points for the regular 26-race season were Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin. After the first challenger round, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger and Aric Almirola were eliminated from the chase grid.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Hendrick No. 48 Lowe’s car, has raced under several chase formats but said this new chase grid will be fun and interesting for the fans.
“It would be hard for me to argue against the chase formats when I’ve won championships,” Johnson said, laughing. “But honestly, at the end of the day, I want what the fans find exciting and what keeps our sponsors around, as well as keeps the sport growing. All indications show that there’s a lot of excitement. Ad buys are going up, sponsorships are renewing and new sponsors coming in — as long as we see that trend, I don’t care what the format is.”
With Logano’s win at Kansas, he has already advanced on to the next eliminator round. He said his performance at Kansas will set the tone for his team and will hopefully keep the momentum going.
“We feel good about today,” Logano said. “We’ve been working really hard, and Todd (Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon) and I have been working together the best we can and we’re doing well in practice and in understanding where we need to make adjustments. Our car started off a little loose and Todd was able to get it tightened up. I don’t think we really needed to make many changes after that. This is nice to get this win and get us through to the next round and not have to worry about Talladega coming up. This win was important.”
For the Hollywood Casino 400, Kevin Harvick took the Coors Light pole with a lap of 27.325 seconds, which results in 197.621 miles per hour, setting a new track record beating his previous record of 194.252 miles per hour. This is Harvick’s 14th pole in 496 races. Harvick finished 12th in the Hollywood Casino 400.
Joey Logano finished first with rookie Kyle Larson taking second. Kyle Busch took third in the Sprint Cup race after winning the Nationwide race on Saturday at Kansas.
Race results for chase drivers and notables: Logano-first, Kyle Busch-third, Carl Edwards-fifth, Ryan Newman-sixth, Denny Hamlin-seventh, Kevin Harvick-12th, Matt Kenseth-13th, Jeff Gordon-14th, Danica Patrick-16th, Tony Stewart-17th, Kasey Kahne-22nd, Brad Keselowski-36th, Dale Earnhardt Jr.-39th, Jimmie Johnson-40th.
The next race will be Saturday, Oct. 11, under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 6:30 p.m. and will televised on ESPN.