Joey Logano moves one step closer to defending Cup title

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Even though he has scored only one top-five finish in the first eight playoff races, Joey Logano is on the cusp of returning to Miami to defend his Cup championship.

Logano’s fourth-place finish Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, along with woes to other playoff contenders, has him holding the final transfer spot by 20 points on Denny Hamlin and 23 points ahead of Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson.

Logano is two points behind Kyle Busch. So if either Hamlin, Blaney, Larson or Chase Elliott, who is last among the eight remaining playoff contenders, wins next weekend at ISM Raceway, Logano could be battling Busch for the final championship spot.

“It’s going to be fun,” Logano said. “I’m looking forward to the battle. The 18 team is good. Kyle is a good driver, but I think we’re a great team. They’re beatable just like everybody else.”

Logano has been beatable this year but with the playoffs broken into three-race rounds, he’s survived to be within one race of returning to the championship round for a second consecutive year.

“We’ve had more blue-collar days than you can imagine throughout these playoffs,” Logano said Sunday after his best finish since placing second in the regular-season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “The stage points is what got us from round to round so far. Today we finally got the finish that we deserved. We’ve been working hard and getting all these points we can and that’s what is keeping us alive.”

Only Martin Truex Jr. has scored more stage points in the playoffs than Logano. Truex has 90 stage points. Logano has 77 stage points, including six Sunday.

Logano also was happy to get a top-five result.

“It feels good to finally get one,” he said. “It’s not a win. We’re not locked in (the title race) like (Kevin Harvick) and (Truex) but we’re not out either.

“We’ve just got to go to Phoenix and do the same things we’ve been doing. We’ve got to score stage points and get a great finish. Off we go.”

Coca-Cola 600 resumes after rain delay

Coca-Cola 600
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The Coca-Cola 600 is back under way following a rain delay.

The caution was issued on Lap 49 for rain and the field was brought to pit road. The red flag was issued at 7:07 p.m. ET and lifted at 8:16 p.m. ET.

The top five at the time of the stoppage was Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano.

Check back for updates.

 

Denny Hamlin team faces potential penalty after ballast falls off car

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Denny Hamlin was involved in an incident even before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 got underway that could result in a hefty penalty.

A chunk of tungsten ballast — which teams use to bring Cup cars up to minimum weight standards — fell off Hamlin’s car on a parade lap.

The incident puts Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart and several others on the team in violation of the NASCAR rule book, which means a hefty penalty could be in the offing.

According to the NASCAR rule book, the penalty is 12.5.2.7.4.d: Minimum safety penalty options — “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer. If NASCAR cannot identify which series or vehicle the lost ballast originated from, all vehicles entered for that Event from and associated with the team organization identified on the lost ballast may receive the suspensions.”

If NASCAR implements the potential penalty, Gabehart and others could miss the following four races: May 27 at Charlotte, May 31 at Bristol, June 7 at Atlanta and June 10 at Martinsville.

Several of those tracks are good for Hamlin, including winning the Bristol summer night race last year, as well as was fourth at the Martinsville playoff race last fall and 11th at Atlanta.

NASCAR ordered Hamlin back to pit road where the No. 11 crew added a new chunk of ballast to Hamlin’s car. He returned to the race eight laps down.

Here’s what a fabricator from rival team Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about the incident:

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Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

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Chevrolet drivers swept the top three rows for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600, led by Kurt Busch‘s pole-winning lap of 181.269 mph.

Jimmie Johnson was next with a lap of 181.214 mph. He was followed by Chase Elliott (181.002 mph), Matt Kenseth (180.923), rookie Tyler Reddick (180.905) and Austin Dillon (180.741).

Ford driver Joey Logano, who starts seventh after a lap of 180.451 mph, was the top qualifier not driving a Chevrolet.

TO THE REAR: Matt DiBenedetto (backup car), Brad Keselowski (unapproved adjustment), Aric Almirola (unapproved adjustment), JJ Yeley (unapproved adjustment) and Timmy Hill (unapproved adjustment)

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Kurt Busch on pole for Coca-Cola 600

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Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 after claiming the pole Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It is Busch’s 28th career pole and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is joined on the front row by Jimmie Johnson. Chase Elliott qualified third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Tyler Reddick. Austin Dillon was sixth, as Chevrolet drivers took the top six spots.

Click here for qualifying results

Aric Almirola spun coming to take the green flag to begin his qualifying lap. He grazed the wall with his rear bumper.

Matt DiBenedetto slapped the wall off Turn 4 during his qualifying lap and will go to a backup car and start at the rear of the field.