“We’re racing for a championship! Let’s go!” exclaimed Joey Logano after climbing from his Mustang on the frontstretch in Las Vegas following a lengthy celebratory burnout.
“All you want to do is get to the Championship Four when the season starts and race for a championship,” Logano said, “and we’ve got the team to do it.”
Logano’s crew chief Paul Wolfe made the decision to bring Logano down pit road for four fresh tires with 25 laps remaining after a Daniel Suárez spin, which proved to be the winning move of the race.
“I don’t see why we can’t win (the championship) at this point,” Logano said.
“Just a lot of adversity we fought through the last 50 laps or so. I thought we were going to win, and then we kind of fell out, (but) had the tires. Racing Ross (Chastain) was fun – he was doing a good job air-blocking me and I was just trying to be patient.
“Eventually, I was just like, ‘I gotta go here.’”
Logano pulled even with Chastain in Turn 4 with four laps to go after Chastain blocked his run on the frontstretch earlier in the lap.
Logano was able to drive deeper into Turn 1 with three to go, and slid up in front of Chastain, setting sail to a .817-second victory.
The win locks Logano into the race for the championship at Phoenix in three weeks, a track he has won at twice previously.
Sunday’s race saw plenty of leaders – 11 – and perhaps the most dominant car on the day was Chastain who led 68 laps.
“There was a clear difference in tires there,” Chastain said, alluding to Logano’s fresher set. “We fully believed that we could hold them off and win the race on the tires we had.
“Joey (Logano) did a good job getting through the field. I hope I’m racing that guy for a really long time.”
The biggest moment of drama, though, happened much earlier in the race.
23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson – eliminated from Playoff contention a week ago – tangled during Stage 2.
Larson took the low line inside of Kevin Harvick into Turn 3 while Wallace was driving in the top lane, making it three-wide on Lap 95. Larson was able to clear Harvick, but his car got tight and pushed up the track, forcing Wallace into the outside wall.
Wallace – the Stage 1 winner – was unhappy and retaliated by hooking Larson in the right-rear, sending both drivers careening hard into the wall and ending both of their days.
A furious Wallace approached Larson on the frontstretch and pushed him several times with no response from Larson. Both drivers were treated and released from the care center.
Their interviews can be seen here.
Christopher Bell, last week’s winner, was an innocent bystander and saw his day end as he was caught up in the wreck. He now sits 23 points behind Denny Hamlin, the current occupant of the final spot in the championship race.
Fellow championship hopeful Ryan Blaney also found trouble on Lap 228 after running up front for much of the day, including leading 39 laps at one point.
While running second, he had a tire go down in Turn 2 and he got into both the outside and inside walls, relegating him to a 28th-place finish, seven laps down. Blaney, the Stage 2 winner, is now 11 points out of fourth.
Kyle Busch, Chase Briscoe and Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon completed the top-10.
Chastain sits 18 points above the cutline – William Byron – while Byron’s teammate Chase Elliott is in third, 17 points to the good. Briscoe is nine points behind Hamlin who holds a six-point advantage over Byron.
The second race in the Round of 8 emanates from Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday with the Dixie Vodka 400 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.