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.