Some pressure is off Joey Logano’s shoulders after the Team Penske driver drove to a victory at Kansas Speedway Sunday. The win protects Logano from being knocked out of Sprint Cup contention under the Chase’s new rules, while the rest of his peers worry about winning at either Charlotte or Talladega in coming weeks.
Big names such as Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski are all at risk of losing their spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup if they don’t perform at Charlotte and Talladega. USA Today says its likely at least one of these major names will be cut from the rankings following the end of the Contender round on October 19.
Earnhardt’s, Johnson’s and Keselowski’s days were put to an abrupt halt on Sunday after they all crashed out. Earnhardt was running in first on Lap 123 when his front right tire went, while Keselowski’s front right later went in a similar fashion on Lap 160, prompting Goodyear officials to investigate the accidents to determine the source of the problems. Keselowski said his aerodynamically sensitive car and a fast, smoothly paved track that allows cars to reach up to 194 mph contributed to the failures.
Earnhardt led a total of 45 laps before running into tire problems. He said the surface of the tire “unwound all the way across … like a string.” Junior also acknowledged the points they lost out on at Kansas will hurt and that they will have to try and win at either Charlotte or the always unpredictable Talladega.
All four drivers who may lose their Chase spot following the next two races – Keselowski, Kahne, Earnhardt and Johnson, can survive the Contender round by winning. Logano will be able to revel in the comfort of being guaranteed a spot in the final four during the next two races, especially at Talladega, a race which fans have expected to shake up the playoff order.
“It makes Talladega a lot easier, that is for sure,” Logano said. “To know we are onto the next round we can focus on a few more races coming up and we will keep trying to capitalize like we are doing.”
Logano is currently the driver best positioned to win the Sprint Cup, but with the new Chase rules, it’s still anybody’s championship to win. The next race of the Eliminator round, the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Superspeedway, will be telling as to who moves on in the sudden-death-like playoff.