TALLADEGA, Ala. — When an engine failure knocked title favorite Martin Truex from NASCAR's playoffs, the rest of the top contenders got a little bit of breathing room.
Then Brad Keselowski suffered the same cruel elimination the same way Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
And in a race for the final transfer spots into the third round of Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon went at it, with Hamlin reaching the Chase's round of eight on a tiebreaker.
Joey Logano won the Hellmann's 500 and Hamlin edged Kurt Busch by 0.006 seconds for third place for the point he needed to tie Dillon in the standings. Dillon was ninth, but lost out based on a worse average finish over the past three races.
"I wasn't sure whether I needed to finish third," Hamlin said. "I told (my team) I didn't want points updates. But that's almost when I probably should have got one to figure out what I was going to do. … So you can't really predict it. I knew I just had to try to finish as good as I could."
With Truex and Keselowski out of the playoffs before the checkered flag, the suspense came down to final finishing order. Logano was not in a must-win situation, but the victory sure didn't hurt. On a green-white-checkered restart he outdueled Brian Scott, who earned a career-best second-place finish for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Dillon, on a frantic dash over two overtime laps, called the outcome "heartbreaking."
"It sure stinks to lose it on a tiebreaker," Dillon said. Chase Elliott was also eliminated.
The three winners in the second phase of the Chase — Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick — automatically reached the round of eight, and Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Hamlin did so on points. There are four Toyotas remaining in the field, all from Joe Gibbs Racing (Kyle Busch, Edwards, Kenseth and Hamlin). Stewart-Haas Racing has Kurt Busch and Harvick — but the two had a heated exchange after the race over alleged contact on the last lap — and Hendrick Motorsports has Johnson for three Chevrolets in the field. Logano is the only Ford driver.
"Feels good to win on a clutch moment like that with the pressure on," Logano said. "I think we ran like a champ."
The race was a stark difference from the spring stop in Alabama, when 35 cars were involved in at least one accident and two went airborne.
Keselowski's engine expired with 43 laps left after debris struck on his front grille.
"It is unfortunate for Brad," Logano said. "It happens as a leader picking some (debris up). We picked it up, just not as much."
Truex, who won twice in the opening round of the Chase, was relegated to a last-place finish.
Formula One: Lewis Hamilton got the victory he needed to keep his championship hopes alive, winning the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, for the fourth time in five years Sunday. Hamilton, the two-time defending series champ, cut Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg's points lead to 26 with three races to go. Rosberg finished second ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.