Who’s in the headline – For the third week in a row, a driver led more than half of the laps in a race, and for the second week in a row that driver won. Joey Logano took the lead on lap 77 of the event and, outside of pit-stop cycles under green flags, Logano led the rest of the race. Logano secured a spot in the final eight of the Chase and doesn’t have to sweat Talladega in two weeks.
What happened – Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch started the event at the front and made it look like it was going to be another Joe Gibbs Racing domination. However, on lap 77, Logano grabbed the lead on the fourth restart of the day after leading off of pit road, and obliterated the field from then on. Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Busch all had difficulties that have relegated them to the outside looking in regarding the final eight. Austin Dillon was the highest finishing non-Chase driver, coming home seventh, as eight of the top-10 spots were claimed by Chasers.
Why you should care – The only real reason to care is that Kenseth was the point leader coming into Charlotte and now he’s nearly a full race behind the eighth transfer spot. That can all be changed with a win at Kansas, but for one of the most dominant drivers in the series over the second half of the season, and a title favorite, the climb to the next round is now quite difficult. For Logano, the win locks him into the next round so he doesn’t have to worry about the potential calamity at Talladega.
What your friends are talking about – Medallions, franchising, entitlement, exclusivity, whatever you want to call it, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that some form of ownership protection is going to be unveiled in 2016. The current rumor is that owners who have attempted every race over the last three years will be able to buy a secured starting spot in the field for the entire 2016 season. The story is 36 teams will be secured and the field may be shortened. Whatever the case, the number of spots available for any new owner to try and enter the sport is going to be incredibly limited.
The finish at Talladega Superspeedway in two weeks may be different from years past. NASCAR is considering changing the green-white-checkered rule for superspeedways so that only one attempt is made. It is an effort to reduce the potential for destroying a large number of racecars. There is also a possibility of making it single file instead of double file, which was how the series did restarts in the final 10 laps years ago. The sanctioning body knows it may not be popular with fans, but it will save owners money, which seems to be the direction the RTA is pushing the sport right now.
Justin Allgaier doesn’t know where he’ll be next year, but it sounds like it won’t be with HScott Motorsports. The word around the garage is that Harry Scott was told he would be allowed to expand to three teams in 2016, but the third team would not run for purse money or the money would be drastically reduced. With Clint Bowyer coming into the fold and Michael Annett already inked, that is going to leave Allgaier on the outside looking in. The young driver confirmed that he has at least three opportunities in the works but at this time does not have any idea which one will play out.
The 2016 schedule is still not released. Some tracks have confirmed they know their dates because they have already signed their agreements with NASCAR. Other tracks have not inked the deals so their dates are estimated at best. Atlanta did file a request for a new date so that very well could be part of the reason the announcement is being delayed.
Who is mad – Earnhardt Jr. was madder than we have seen him in quite some time. After going into turn 2 following the caution for Allgaier’s oil down of the track, Earnhardt went above the oil absorbent material in turns 1 and 2 and hit oil. The result caused enough damage to his car after hitting the wall to push him three laps down into a 28th-place finish and next-to-last in the Chase standings. Speaking after the race he was told that the track safety crew got out of their vehicles to look for oil on the racetrack and there wasn’t any. He replied “I f$%@ing hit it and hit the f$%@ing wall. If they’d like to argue about it I’ll be glad to.”
Speaking of Chase drivers who are in trouble after one race, points leader Kenseth left Charlotte last among the 12 drivers in the Contender round. Kenseth overshot his pit on a mid-race stop and ended up back in the pack after sitting on the pole and battling among the leaders early. He made contact with Ryan Newman that put him into the wall and damaged his car on lap 177. His team thrashed and flailed on the car for several pit stops and kept him on the lead lap. Unfortunately for Kenseth, he blew a tire on lap 240, smacked the outside wall in turn 3 and was done for the day. As a result, Kenseth is 12th among the Chase contenders, 32 points behind Brad Keselowski in eighth.
Busch has won a bushel full of races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but none of them have been in the Cup Series. Busch had a strong car on Sunday, leading the first four laps and running near the front for almost the first 200 laps. However, on lap 195, the field was coming by pit road and Kyle Larson was alongside Busch and both were waiting to see what leader Logano was going to do. At the last minute, even though Logano was staying out, Larson’s crew called him in. He made the left turn to try and miss the commitment cone and drove over the right front of Busch’s car. The resulting damage ended up costing Busch a lap that he was never able to regain. The 20th-place finish puts Busch 10 points out of the eighth and final transfer spot for the next round of the Chase.
Who is happy – Aric Almirola is putting on a late-season charge. After missing the Chase, Almirola has notched three top 10s and one top five in the first four Chase races, only stumbling at Loudon with a DNF for 43rd. Almirola is probably hearing the rumors that his teammate is out of a ride after the season and feeling the pinch to step up the performance heading into 2016. Whatever the reason, another top 10 has to have him heading to Kansas with a smile.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran 13th for the second time in three weeks, with an eighth-place run in the middle. Stenhouse has to hear his name being swirled about in the Silly Season whirlwind, and turning up the wick over these final 10 races of 2015 can only help plead his case to stay in the car beyond next year.
Dillon has shown over his career that he is very strong on mile-and-a-half race tracks. Friday night he pulled off the sweep of Charlotte in the Xfinity Series for 2015. After several subpar weeks in the Cup car after a fourth-place run at Michigan, Dillon ran strong all day at Charlotte and brought the iconic No. 3 home in seventh position. The former Truck and NXS champion is still trying to be the first driver in history to win the title in all three of the national touring series. Since Slugger Labbe came on board he’s been making strides in that direction.
When the checkered flag flew
Logano won the Bank of America 500 for his 12th career win in 249 career starts. Logano is now 57th on the all-time wins list. This is Logano’s fourth triumph of 2015. He has never won in the Cup Series at Charlotte before this weekend.
Kevin Harvick finished in second position for his 14th top-two in 30 races this season. Harvick has finished first or second six times at Charlotte in 30 career starts. In his career, Harvick has crossed the line as the first loser 42 times, tying him with Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Buddy Baker for 13th on the all-time runner-up list.
Martin Truex Jr. crossed the line third on Sunday for the fifth podium run of the season. This is Truex’s best career finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Truex is now tied with Dick Brooks on the all-time podium list for 73rd, with 23 career runs in the first three positions on the results page.
Round two of the Chase is one race old. Logano is locked into round three thanks to the victory at Charlotte. The other eleven drivers have two chances left to lock their spot in round three with a win at Kansas or Talladega. The remaining drivers and their points position:
- Kevin Harvick
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Denny Hamlin
- Kurt Busch
- Carl Edwards
- Jeff Gordon
- Brad Keselowski
- Ryan Newman
- Kyle Busch
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Matt Kenseth
Takin’ it to the Bank
Cup winners this year have pocketed $10,015,341 in 30 races, while the last-place finisher has taken home $2,348,598.
In the Xfinity Series it has been $2,061,912 for the winners and $377,115 for last place in 29 races.
After 18 Truck races the winner has $868,151 in his coffers and the last loser has banked $166,555.
What is in the cooler – After the race was rained out on Saturday night, many people thought the racing action on Sunday would actually involve a little more passing with the heat of the day in the racetrack. Unfortunately, the ridiculous amount of aero dependency the cars have in the 2015 race package overcame even the tougher racing conditions, and the result was a monotonous parade of cars with minimal passing anywhere on the track for position except on restarts. The resulting domination of the No. 22 of Logano only made it an even greater snoozer. The end result is one room temperature Carolina Blonde.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – After a night race that turned into a day race at Charlotte we head to another mile-and-a-half day race at Kansas. The event starts at 2:15 on Sunday October 18th. It can be seen on NBC. If you would like to listen to it you can hear the action on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. You can also see it streamed on NBCSportsExtra.com
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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