KANSAS CITY, Kan. (October 18, 2020) – For the last 42 laps of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Team Penske driver Joey Logano spent as much time looking outside the front windshield of his No. 22 Ford as he did his rearview mirror. In the end, however, a stalking – and faster – Kevin Harvick couldn’t quite muster enough power to make the pass for the lead as Logano punched his ticket to the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway on November 8.
Once he gained the lead, time and time again Logano fended off attempts by Harvick, whose No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford was the dominant car of the day in what was the ultimate cat and mouse game. Logano’s team pulled off a super-quick pit stop to give him the lead under the day’s last yellow, then he got the jump on Harvick on the restart and played defense the rest of the way. The event, which was staged in front of 10,000 fans, served as the first race of the Round of 8. Now Logano will head to Phoenix with a chance to secure his second title in the last three years.
“You gotta want it man. I am worn out,” said Logano, who picked up his third victory at Kansas (Oct. 2014, Oct. 2015) and third this season. “I spent more time in the mirror than I did in the windshield there. Pit stops got us positions and got us the lead. The 4 was fast, real fast, especially down the straightaways. I thought if I could hold him off the first 15 laps that I would have a chance. Dirty air was the best for us. As we caught lapped traffic I was able to gap ourselves as he got more dirty air and I was able to draft somebody because I was a little slow down the straightaway. Man, I am exhausted after that.”
Harvick, who had the lead (and led a race-high 85 laps) when the caution came out on lap 222 of the 267-lap race for Tyler Reddick’s contact with the turn three SAFER barrier, followed Logano while trying to pass both low and high, and trying to hold off a late-race closing Alex Bowman.
“We just needed to get off of pit road first. It came down to controlling that restart and we lost the lead there on the restart and wound up trying to battle,” said Harvick, who entered the event with nine wins and the lead in the title standings. “Our car was very versatile and I could go move up the race track or down the race track. I needed him to guess wrong. He’s really good a blocking. He did a good job of holding us off.”
Logano’s margin of victory was just .312 seconds with Bowman three car lengths in third behind Harvick. The top four positions were all championship contenders, which also included Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski who was fourth. Two other playoff drivers – Chase Elliott (sixth) and Martin Truex, Jr. (ninth) were in the top 10, along with Kyle Busch, who was fifth, Ryan Blaney seventh, William Byron eighth, and rookie Christopher Bell 10th.
“We needed a longer run there at the end,” said Bowman. “Obviously Harvick was better than the 22. He (Logano) knows how to block very well and drive out of his mirror. That (sometimes) is what you gotta do to win these things.”
Championship contenders Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch suffered setbacks as Busch finished 38th after engine troubles on lap 197. Hamlin, who led 58 laps, brushed the wall with just under 100 laps to go, cut down a tire and had to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs and new rubber while going down a lap to the leaders. He was able to take the wave around later in the event and managed a 15th-place effort with a battered machine.
While Logano is guaranteed a title run in Phoenix, Harvick still leads the remaining six drivers vying for the three spots. Harvick holds a healthy 41-point edge on fifth place (first spot outside the Championship 4 Cutoff) Elliott. Hamlin is third in the standings, 20 points up on Elliott. Keselowski, in the final transfer position, is eight points up on Elliott. Bowman is ranked sixth, 27 points behind Keselowski. Truex is now seventh, 31 points below the cutoff. Busch is in a must-win situation with a 73-point deficit.
The second race of the Round of 8 is set for Sunday, October 25 at Texas Motor Speedway, while the final chance to make the Championship 4 will be at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, November 1.
The race featured six cautions for 31 laps and had 17 lead changes among 11 drivers. Elliott won Stage 1 while Hamlin was the victor of Stage 2. Average speed of the event was 138.329 mph.
While Logano’s pit crew put him out first for the last green-flag run, the Paul Wolfe-led team actually put their driver in a better spot earlier in the race that led to him having a shot at the end. At the end of Stage 2 and mired outside of the top10, Wolfe called for two tires during the break that led to the start of third and final stage. It resulted in Logano starting second, giving him valuable track position.
“Paul’s strategy to take two tires put us up there,” said Logano, who uncomfortably entered the race sixth in the title standings, 45 points behind Harvick. “I can’t believe we are going to Phoenix to race for a championship. Everyone puts us as an underdog, like in 2018 (when he won the NASCAR Cup Series Championship). I am going to sleep good tonight.”
Logano’s victory was career win number 26, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 2022. The triumph also gives Logano his fourth attempt in the premier series grand finale event. He was fourth in 2014, then runner-up in 2016, before taking the title in 2018 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Prior to today, his last victory occurred on March 8 of this year at Phoenix.
NASCAR will return to Kansas Speedway twice in 2021, including the first weekend of May, which will be capped by a NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, May 2. The track also will once again host a Playoff race in the Round of 8 next year, with that weekend being highlighted by the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday, October 24.
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About Kansas Speedway
Kansas Speedway is a premier motorsports facility in the Midwest. The track, which opened in 2001, hosts two NASCAR Cup Series weekends each year, along with approximately 200 other event days each year. The Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, which opened in 2012, overlooks Turn 2 of the track.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities. NASCAR consists of three national series (NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series™), four regional series (ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East & West and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), one local grassroots series and three international series. The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. NASCAR also owns Motor Racing Network, Racing Electronics, Americrown Service and ONE DAYTONA. Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).