KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Though it was nail-biting for different reasons, both Joey Logano and Chase Elliott narrowly staved off elimination as the second round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs came to a close Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
Logano, who appeared to be comfortably safe on points inside of 20 to go, saw his postseason hopes thrown into jeopardy when he was caught up in an accident on the first of two overtime attempts, sliding through the frontstretch grass and damaging his Ford.
The defending Cup champion came to pit road, got the necessary repairs from his crew, and was able to salvage a 17th-place finish – ending up seventh in the playoff standings and a scant nine points above the cut line at the end of the day.
“Nine points after three races,” said Logano. “Every one them matters for sure. You just have to fight for every point. Everyone does the same thing — it’s tough. You see a late race restart in Kansas, and it’s like, ‘Oh boy, we’re about to crash some stuff’ because everyone is trying to get every point possible — especially when cars are right on the cut line and know they have to pass three or four cars. Then it becomes a real mess.
“Luckily we made it.”
Sunday’s end result also validated Logano’s reasoning behind racing as hard as he did a week earlier at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway, where he was maligned for doing so as a car that was many laps down but ultimately gained three critical points because of it.
Those – combined with a stage win Sunday in Kansas – helped keep his title hopes alive.
“Surviving and advancing was this whole round for us,” said Logano. “It started in Dover, when we watched the race start in the garage. Then (we had) the crash in Talladega, but scored enough stage points and an OK-enough finish to get some points. Then today — whew, we got that stage win which was great and that is a (playoff) point that will continue on, so that’s a big deal. We needed every point we could (get), and it looked like we were in a good spot. Next thing you know, they’re wrecking on the outside and I get hit and I’m going through the grass.
“I felt comfortable before that … I didn’t hit anything so I got lucky for sure. I have been lucky a few times. … It was a hard-fought and blue-collar round, for sure.”
In contrast, Chase Elliott found himself in what appeared to be a must-win situation over the final laps, running second and needing desperately to pass Denny Hamlin for the victory.
At least, that was the case until the second and final overtime attempt, when Brad Keselowski – who Elliott was battling for the last berth in the Round of 8 – was shuffled back to 19th on the final lap, after needing to stay within 14 positions of Elliott to move on.
The net result was a three-point cushion for the Dawsonville, Ga., young gun and fan favorite, making him the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver to move into the next round.
“Honestly, I was just trying to win the race and the rest of it just kind of fell into our hands a little bit, with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) having a misfortune and the 22 (Joey Logano) being in that crash,” Elliott noted. “Luckily, we got a good bit of stage points in that first one, got five more in the second stage, and battled for the win. I was proud of that.
“We weren’t the best car by any stretch, but I did feel like we came here with the mindset to win and I was proud of the fact that we came here and fought for a win.”
That fight was necessary, particularly in Elliott’s eyes, because he believed the only way that he’d get through to the playoff semifinals was by beating Hamlin to the checkered flag.
In lieu of that, he was just scrapping for every position he could steal in the closing laps.
“It was just about trying to get as many points as we could get. In our case, I was under the impression that we had to win all the way up to the end of the race,” Elliott explained. “It was a lot of good fortune for us there at the end, a lot of luck and just being in the right place at the right time. There was a great pit stop there at the end that put us in position.
“I really through we were out. I had a pretty good restart, gave Denny (Hamlin) a push and I think William (Byron) didn’t get as good as a restart. So, he wasn’t pushing me and that was what I kind of needed I felt like to give Denny a run,” he added. “Once we singled out, it takes more than a couple of laps to get the momentum up now. So, it was going to be really tough. Denny did a good job on the bottom at not making any mistakes.
“From there, it was a lot of luck and I’m thankful it worked out for us.”