NASCAR National Series News & Notes
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Logano Wins Bristol Night Race For Second Straight Year
The No. 22 Team Penske driver successfully defended his August 2014 Bristol Motor Speedway win, leading 176 laps on his way to Victory Lane in Saturday's IRWIN Tools Night Race at "The Last Great Colosseum."
Logano seems to have Bristol figured out. In addition to his two wins at the Tennessee short track, he produced a dominant NASCAR XFINITY Series victory there in March when he led all 300 laps and logged a perfect 150.0 driver rating.
Logano's win on Sunday was his third of the season and second in three weeks. He is third on the Chase Grid and ranks second to Kevin Harvick in top fives (14) and top 10s (18).
Parallels can be drawn from Logano's performance right now to the same period of time last year. In 2014, he logged four consecutive top-six finishes going into his win at Bristol and took the momentum into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup where he won two races and posted a 6.4 average finish on his way to a Championship 4 Round final showing. This season, the 25-year-old Middletown, Connecticut native registered four top-five results in six races prior to his win at Bristol, a stretch that included two runner-ups and a win.
Harvick First Driver Since 1972 With Double-Digit Runner-Up Finishes
As the great Rickie Bobby once said, "If you ain't first, you're last."
Hopefully Kevin Harvick doesn't agree with the fictitious Wonder Bread car driver's logic.
The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver overcame two pit road penalties to log his 10th runner-up showing of the year. It is only the 10th time a driver amassed double-digit runner-up finishes in a season and the first since Bobby Allison in 1972.
Harvick ranks tied for fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with two wins, but has dominated every other statistical category. He leads the NSCS in top fives (17) top 10s (21), driver rating (119.7), laps led (1,406/21.4%), average running position (7.5) and average finish (7.5).
Last season, Harvick topped the list in nearly every statistical category except wins entering the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Once in NASCAR's playoffs, he turned his statistical production into victories, winning three races - including the last two events - to walk off with his first career NSCS championship.
2 To Go Until Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers have just two races left to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup - Darlington and Richmond.
As of now, 11 drivers are qualified for NASCAR's playoffs with wins as long as they start the next two races and remain in the top 30 in points: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.
The five remaining drivers on the Chase Grid have to either visit Victory Lane or stay high enough in the points standings where they don't get bumped by a new winner outside the top 16.
These drivers are Jamie McMurray (76 points above the cutoff line), Ryan Newman (+63), Paul Menard (+54), Jeff Gordon (+52) and Clint Bowyer (+35).
The winless drivers who have won at Darlington in the past and have yet to earn Chase berths this season are Gordon and Greg Biffle.
The winless drivers who have won at Richmond in the past and have yet to earn Chase berths this season are Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.
For the first time, a winless CAN clinch a spot in the Chase. If a repeat driver wins at Darlington, a winless driver would need to have a 45 point lead on the fifth-highest of the winless drivers (or 44 points, depending on tie-breakers). If there is a new winner, a winless driver would need to lead the fourth-highest winless driver by 45 points (or 44, depending on tie-breakers).
Loop Mania: A Sampling Of The Recent Statistical Leaders
Dating back to Kentucky Speedway in July, Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last seven races. The other two were won by Team Penske's Joey Logano. While the JGR drivers (Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin), Logano and Kevin Harvick have been getting the majority of the hype lately, a closer look at the stats shows that Logano's Team Penske shopmate Brad Keselowski might be ready to break out.
1. Kyle Busch | 502
2. Joey Logano | 337
3. Brad Keselowski | 213
4. Kevin Harvick | 181
5. Matt Kenseth |150
1. Kyle Busch | 122.3
2. Joey Logano | 121.0
3. Brad Keselowski | 110.8
4. Kevin Harvick | 110.6
5. Carl Edwards | 107.5
1. Joey Logano | 5.3
2. Brad Keselowski | 6.0
3. Kyle Busch | 6.4
4. Carl Edwards | 7.9
5. Kevin Harvick | 9.0
While he only ranks 14th in points gained all season (666), Carl Edwards looks to be gaining momentum as well.
Hamlin Heating Up At Right Time?
With top-five finishes in his last two starts, Denny Hamlin could be on the verge of a strong run.
The No. 11 Toyota driver proved his ability to navigate through the new Chase format by making the Championship 4 Round last season. Also, he has a track in every round at which he is historically strong. Hamlin has two wins at Loudon (Challenger Round), owns a win at Talladega (Challenger Round) along with the sixth-best driver rating among active drivers at Superspeedways (92.7), boasts five victories at Martinsville (Eliminator 8 Round) and claims two checkered flags at Homestead (Championship 4 Round).