Joey Logano blocked his way to NASCAR’s championship finale, controlling the final 40 laps of Sunday’s playoff race at Kansas and passing lapped traffic to keep second-place finisher Kevin Harvick behind him through the checkered flag.
“We’re racing for a championship again,” Logano said on NBC after his third victory this season and first win since the pandemic started. “Heck yeah!”
The No. 22 Ford driver snapped a 28-race winless streak in the first race in the Round of 8 at the Hollywood Casino 400 to punch his ticket to Phoenix. Alex Bowman finished third.
With fewer than 50 laps to go, a caution was called for Tyler Reddick tagging the wall. Logano gained the lead off what ended up being the the final restart of the race as Harvick chased him down, but the series points leader was never able to pass Logano.
“Joey’s a good blocker,” Harvick said on NBC after the race.
Logano said fending off Harvick never got easier. The No. 4 Ford driver was in his mirror through the finish, but couldn’t quite meet the leader’s pace as he was slowed by other cars and “dirty air.”
“He hung on there for a long time,” Logano said. “And he was just catching me so fast on the straightaways, and it was just a matter of picking the right lanes when you get there.”
Logano credited spotter T.J. Majors with helping him maintain track position, his crew’s “crazy good” pit stops and a two-tire call by crew chief Paul Wolfe to put him in the lead late. The team will return to the track where it won earlier this season for NASCAR’s championship race in three weeks. Harvick finished second at Phoenix pre-pandemic, so the championship could pose another battle between Sunday’s top-two finishers.
Harvick still sits 41 points up over the field after Sunday, and will likely be a final four contender. Although his car handling didn’t start as well as it ended, Harvick fared better than other playoff drivers Sunday.
Chase Elliott couldn’t hear his team due to persisting radio issues and finished in sixth place after winning the first stage. Denny Hamlin, who last won at the track, hit the wall in the final stage after winning Stage 2, and was forced to pit under green flag conditions for damage to his No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin went two laps down and raced back to a 15th-place finish.
Kurt Busch, however, didn’t have a chance to close out the race after his engine blew up in the final stage. Busch was 21 points down before the start of the Round of 8, and is in a must-win situation for the next two playoff races.
“It’s a shame for everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing,” Busch said on NBC after exiting his No. 1 Chevrolet. “Having an engine failure in the playoffs is just like a huge parachute that slows you up. So we’ll pack that parachute up, throw it away and we’ll go to Texas to win.”
Logano’s victory, meanwhile, is well-timed. His team will be able to focus on building a car for the season finale as other drivers try to secure their spot in the championship race. The Team Penske driver last appeared in the Championship 4 two years ago, when he also won the title.
“The same thing happened in 2018,” Logano said on NBC. “I can’t believe it.”
NASCAR 2020 playoff schedule
Round of 8
▪ 3:30 pm Sunday, Oct 25: Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
▪ 2 pm Sunday, Nov. 1: Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway
▪ 3 pm Sunday, Nov. 8: NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway
NASCAR post-Kansas playoff standings
|Joey Logano||ADV (win at Kansas)|
|Martin Truex Jr.||-31|
NASCAR Kansas final results
|Pos.||Driver||Car No.||Time Behind|
|9||Martin Truex Jr.||19||5.715|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||47||13.355|
|17||John Hunter Nemechek||38||16.254|