Joey Logano reached the NASCAR Cup Series championship round for the fourth time in eight years, outdueling Kevin Harvick to become a winner Sunday’s 400-mile race at Kansas Speedway.
Logano took the lead on a pit stop under yellow on Lap 223 and then spent most of the last 40 laps blocking Harvick from taking the lead on the 1.5-mile speedway.
It was the third victory this season for the Team Penske driver, and his first since March 8 at Phoenix Raceway, where the championship will be decided Nov. 8 between Logano and three other drivers.
“You’ve got to want it, man,” Logano, who led 47 of 267 laps, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “What an amazing team this ShellPenzoil team is. Oh my gosh. I’m wore out. I spent more time in the mirror than the windshield there. Pit stops put us in position, got us the lead. (Harvick) was real fast on the straightaways.
RESULTS: Where everyone finished at Kansas Speedway
“I thought if I could hold him off the first 15 laps, I’d have a chance. … I’m exhausted after that. We’re going to Phoenix and racing for a championship again.”
Logano’s No. 22 Ford now has reached the Championship 4 in alternate years since 2014, winning the championship in his most recent trip in 2018 (when he also won the Round of 8 opener when it was held at Martinsville Speedway).
Harvick finished 0.312 seconds behind Logano and maintained his lead in the standings (one of the title slots will be determined on points) with two races remaining.
“We just needed to get off pit road first,” Harvick, who led a race-high 85 laps, told NBC Sports reporter Parker Kligerman. “It came down to controlling that restart. We lost the lead, wound up trying to battle. All the guys did a great job. We had a fast car and moved all over the racetrack. I had a lot of options. Good run for us, wish we could have won.”
Alex Bowman finished third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott.
“At the end, just running wide open it finally came back to us enough, but I couldn’t do anything once I got there,” Bowman, who finished 0.680 seconds behind, told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “We’re building great Camaros, just a little bit short today.
Several Round of 8 playoff contenders encountered problems during the race.
After starting from the pole position and winning Stage 1, Elliott battled radio problems throughout the race that left him unable to hear his team. This proved critical during a yellow flag late in the second stage when Elliott pitted despite his team trying to keep him on the track.
Denny Hamlin had to make an unscheduled pit stop under green after hitting the wall off Turn 4 with 87 laps remaining, sustaining right-side damage and a flat right rear tire.
He fell a lap down after pitting under green but was able to maintain the No. 11 Toyota’s pace upon returning. He rebounded to finish 15th after falling outside the top 30.
“It damaged the car, and you can’t have any damage on the car at these tracks,” said Hamlin, who won Stage 2. “Actually kind of fortunate to get a couple of cautions to get back on the lead lap. That’s as far as I could go with the damage I had. I definitely had a race-winning car today, just drove it in the fence.”
Hamlin remained second in the standings, 21 behind Harvick.
Trouble for #NASCARPlayoffs driver Denny Hamlin!
Hamlin hits the wall, forcing him to pit road. pic.twitter.com/XZZnIYtDwD
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 18, 2020
After being penalized for speeding during the first caution on Lap 25, Kurt Busch was contending for a top-five finish before he began losing power with 75 laps remaining.
The engine in his No. 1 Chevrolet exploded a few laps later, and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished 38th — putting him in a must-win situation to advance to the championship round at Phoenix.
Martin Truex Jr. started from the rear after his car failed prerace inspection twice and forfeited its fifth-place starting spot. The No. 19 Toyota driver quickly overcame the deficit, moving into the top 20 within the first two laps and the top 10 by Lap 50.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Elliott
STAGE 2 WINNER: Hamlin
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Kyle Busch finished fifth, his first top five on a 1.5-mile track since Texas Motor Speedway in July. … Elliott started on pole and led three times for 48 laps, the only driver to lead all seven races of the playoffs. … Eighth-place finisher William Byron has seven top 10s in the past 11 races. … With a 10th, Christopher Bell scored his first top 10 since Kentucky three months ago.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Matt Kenseth slapped the wall and finished last after completing only 144 laps. … Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson tangled with Ryan Preece and finished 31st in likely his final start at Kansas.
Dust ourselves off and try again next weekend ✔️ https://t.co/jSz6ueR3qQ
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) October 18, 2020
NEXT: The Cup Series will head Oct. 25 to Texas Motor Speedway with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.