Logano wins at New Hampshire in second Chase race
LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Make it two for two for Team Penske in the Chase.
Joey Logano helped Team Penske strengthen its grip as the organization to beat for the championship, pulling away on an overtime restart to win Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and advancing to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
''We're doing what we've got to do to win this thing right now,'' Logano said.
Raised in Connecticut, Logano always considered New Hampshire his home track, the one where he dreamed of being bathed in confetti in Victory Lane and flocked by family and friends.
For Logano, the track about 75 miles outside Boston was his version of Daytona. Winning at New Hampshire could mean a bit more to him than a boyhood fantasy fulfilled when the season ends - it could be Logano's launching pad for his first NASCAR championship.
Logano and teammate Brad Keselowski, who won the Chase opener at Chicagoland, have advanced to the next round. Four drivers will be eliminated after every third race, and a win guarantees a driver an automatic berth into the next round. The first cutoff race is next week at Dover International Speedway.
Team Penske will be playing with house money at the Monster Mile. Roger Penske's crew is rolling, winning four of the last five races dating to Bristol and snagging the early lead on the scorecard against Hendrick Motorsports.
''Confidence is high through the 22 team right now, all of Team Penske,'' Logano said. ''All of Team Penske. We feel like we've got some championships to win, not only on the Cup side, but Nationwide side. And you've got IndyCar. We're just trying to catch up to them.''
Will Power won the IndyCar Series championship for Penske last month.
Logano raced to his fourth victory of the season, leading 73 laps and surviving a NASCAR season-high 15 cautions that wrecked results for several Chase drivers. He took the lead from Kevin Harvick with 27 laps left and went on to his seventh career Cup victory.
Logano attended his first NASCAR race at New Hampshire when he was 5, made his first career Cup start at this site and won his first race in 2009. But that was a rain-shortened win that always gnawed at Logano. Until he became a regular winner, it was considered a bit of a fluke and the rain meant Logano was denied a traditional victory celebration.
This time, he took No. 22 Ford for the celebratory burnouts and a spin around the track holding the checkered flag.
''I didn't know where Victory Lane was, actually,'' Logano said. ''I just didn't want to come in. I want to stay out. I never got out in front of all the fans on the front straightaway before. It was just too cool.''
Keselowski and Logano are 1-2 in the points standings. Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola are in the bottom four of the 16-driver field and at risk of getting cut next Sunday at Dover.
Chase drivers took seven of the first 10 spots at New Hampshire. Harvick was third, Jimmie Johnson fifth, Almirola sixth, Kyle Busch eighth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10th.
''It's not all about winning and losing at this point. It's about advancing,'' said Harvick, who led a race-high 104 laps.
Some things of note at the New Hampshire race:
CAUTION!: The staggering number of cautions slowed the 300-mile race and wrecked the chances for several Chase drivers to contend for a win. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Hamlin and Matt Kenseth; Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne; and Stewart-Haas Racing's Kurt Busch all finished outside of the top 20.
Tony Stewart was 30th in his first race since he learned a grand jury will decide his fate in the fatal sprint car crash in upstate New York.
Other Chase drivers included: AJ Allmendinger was 13th, Roush Fenway Racing drivers Biffle and Carl Edwards were 16th and 17th, Ryan Newman 18th, Kenseth 21st, Kahne 23rd, and Gordon 26th.
HAMLIN: Hamlin's Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship bid took a major tumble Sunday when a slew of problems hit his car, from fuel issues that left him fuming on pit road to a multi-car wreck that knocked him out of the race.
''You know on performance, you deserve to move on,'' Hamlin said. ''We would have a great shot to move on and really make some noise here in these last eight races. In this three-race section, you can't have one bad week. Not right now. You've got to be flawless. You've got to be at your best the last 10.''
Hamlin dropped from a tie for sixth in the standings to 13th and is among the final four drivers who could be eliminated from the Chase after next week's race at Dover. NASCAR this year switched to an elimination format and four drivers will be knocked out after every third race.
JUNIOR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. opened the season with a bang, winning the Daytona 500. He used that victory to storm through one of the best seasons of his career and stamp himself a favorite for the Sprint Cup championship. Earnhardt has hit a bit of a speed bump in the Chase. He rallied from a pit-stop error that dropped him a lap back to finish ninth Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He was 11th in the Chase opener and Chicagoland and is tied for fifth in the points standings. He's in solid shape to advance to second round following next week's race at Dover.
KEZ SAYS: Keselowski led 78 laps, hit the wall, and still was in the hunt for a win. The 2012 champion failed in his bid to win a third straight Cup race, though he salvaged a seventh-place finish. ''We certainly have a lot to be proud of, but there's a lot of work to do,'' Keselowski said.
NICE START: Rookie Kyle Larson was second at New Hampshire for his second top-three finish in two weeks.