Tough Pocono race adds pressure in Joey Logano’s bid to make playoffs

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Joey Logano, who has made it to the championship race in two of the last three years, likely needs to win one of the next five races to avoid missing the Cup playoffs.

Logano’s victory at Richmond in April doesn’t count toward playoff eligibility because his car failed post-race inspection. He is 69 points out of what would be the final playoff spot heading into this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen International on NBCSN.

Logano’s 27th-place finish Sunday at Pocono Raceway marked the third time he’s placed 25th or worse in the last five races.

Even with those struggles, crew chief Todd Gordon told “The Morning Drive” on Monday he sees tracks that Logano can win at to ensure a playoff spot.

“We finished first and second the last two years at Watkins Glen,’’ Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We get to go to Michigan after that, which we’ve won twice, been a really strong track for us. Bristol, we won the night race twice. I think Bristol night race is a better race for us than the Bristol spring race. Look forward to that. We won Richmond in the spring. Let’s not leave that one out.

“I don’t think you’ve got to swing for the fences. I think you’ve got to put yourself in the right positions, but you can’t do stupid things and try to get there. We’ve got to find a little more speed in the race cars and that’s something that has been a consistent need for us. I think we’ve found some but I don’t think we’ve found enough, and we’ve got to continue to work forward on that and put ourselves in position.

“Unfortunately with the weekend we had, yes, it does put us further down in points and more in a position where we need to win, but I feel very strongly about the next five races and getting that done.’’

Logano is in that hole after a combination of woes Sunday at Pocono.

A lug nut got stuck in the air gun on an early stop, costing Logano track position.

“It buried us on track position,’’ Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Pocono, once you get buried back in traffic, it’s tough if you don’t have astronomical speed like a couple of cars did to get yourself back out of it.’’

Logano was penalized for speeding on pit road on Lap 124. When he came to serve the penalty, he stopped in his box and his crew serviced the car, leading to another penalty. Section 10.7.1.2.a of the Cup Rule Book states that “the vehicle must enter pit road and drive the entire length of pit road without stopping.’’

Gordon explained the penalty: “A combination of coming back to pit road to serve the pit road speeding penalty on low tire pressures, the car lands on the splitter and then we locked up a tire, and I didn’t want to ruin the run on a flat-spotted tire. Had to put another set of tires on. Kind of a day that we never got ourselves right back in position. Kind of missed it on the car setup to start with and we made a few mistakes, and we just didn’t have enough to recover from those mistakes.’’

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Points leader Elliott Sadler clinches Xfinity playoff spot after finishing third at Bristol

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Even though he hasn’t won this year, Elliott Sadler earned himself a spot in the Xfinity Series playoffs Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sadler is the fourth driver to qualify for the playoffs. He joins Ryan Reed, William Byron and Justin Allgaier, who clinched spots through race wins.

The JR Motorsports driver and the series points leader finished third in the Food City 300 for his ninth top five of the year.

“Man, we had a great car,” Sadler told NBCSN. “I hit the wall with like 50 to go. Then I threw my water bottle out and it got in the jack man’s way, messed us up. We’re peaking at the right time.”

Sadler has led the Xfinity Series point standings for the last 10 races and following 20 of the 22 races this year.

Following Sadler in the top five is William Byron (-110), Allgaier (-136), Brennan Poole (-186) and Daniel Hemric (-206).

Brendan Gaughan is on the playoff bubble. He is 43 points above the cutoff line. Ross Chastain is 13th on the playoff grid.

Click here for the point standings.

Results, stats for the Xfinity Series race at Bristol

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Kyle Busch won the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway for his fifth Xfinity Series win of the year.

He led 186 laps and swept all three stages.

Completing the top five were Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for full results.

Kyle Busch wins Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Kyle Busch once again dominated a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway, winning Friday night’s Food City 300.

Busch led 186 laps on the way to the win, his fifth Xfinity Series victory of the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver fended off the field in a nine-lap shootout following a late caution.

The top five was completed by Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

Busch moved one step closer to a sweep of the race week. He won Wednesday’s Camping World Truck Series race. If he wins Saturday’s Cup race, it will be the second time he’s swept all three Bristol races after doing it in 2010.

Just like Wednesday, Busch fought through the field after a mid-race speeding penalty to earn the win.

“At least I didn’t have to come through (the field) in the last stage because everybody was pretty fast there tonight in the last stage,” Busch said. “I don’t know if I would have been able to make it all the way back up through there. Suárez gave us a heck of a run there. I was trying to push hard and he was closing in on us a little bit there before that last caution came out. Once that caution came out everything cooled down and my car wasn’t even close to what it was before, so I don’t know how I held on to it. The car was just so sideways.”

The win is Busch’s 91st in the Xfinity Series.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Allgaier led twice for 75 laps and earned his sixth top five of the season … Sadler led once for 15 laps and clinched a spot in the playoffs … Ty Dillon earned his second top five of the season and beset finish in 19 starts … Joey Logano bounced back from a flat tire and going to two laps down to finish ninth.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ryan Reed and Aric Almirola wrecked on Lap 25 after they pinched Spencer Gallagher on the backstretch. Almirola finished 38th. … Reed caused the following caution after damage from the previous wreck cut a tire, sending him into the wall. Reed finished 37th … Brendan Gaughan had one unscheduled pit stop for a tire rub. He was then involved in a crash with 15 to go after being tagged by Jeb Burton, who had lost a tire. He finished 30th … William Byron lost a tire with less than 10 to go and had to pit. He finished 22nd.

NOTABLE: With his win, Busch is nine wins away from reaching 100 Xfinity wins. Busch has said he’ll retire from Xfinity competition once he reaches 100 … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th in his first Xfinity start of the year.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Two weeks in a row. I know he doesn’t have a lot of race and I like him a lot normally, but right now I’m going to knock the hell out of him. The first time he gave me a flat and the second time he says he blew a tire. If you know you’ve got a tire going then don’t drive underneath somebody. The last couple of weeks I’ve been driven with no respect. We put ourselves back in a decent spot and we’re going to go to Road America and win that sucker.” – Brendan Gaughan after his late wreck with Jeb Burton.

NEXT: Johnsonville 180 at Road America at 3 p.m. ET on Aug. 27 on NBC.

Starting lineup for Cup night race at Bristol

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Erik Jones and Kyle Larson will start on the front row of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC).

Jones starts from his first Cup pole.

Completing the top five are Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.

Click here for the starting lineup.