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Joey Logano takes Sprint Cup victory at Bristol

Joey Logano

Joey Logano

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Joey Logano surged past Matt Kenseth with 44 laps to go Saturday night and won at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in his Sprint Cup career, foiling Kenseth's gambling attempt to secure a spot in NASCAR's playoffs.

Logano became the fifth driver this season to win three times, joining the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski, who finished second in the Irwin Tools Night Race.

"I woke up this morning and I wasn't sure if we had a winning car or not," Logano, who led 76 of 500 laps, told ESPN. "(Crew chief) Todd Gordon, he's a good salesman, he really sold me on thinking that we had a winning car."

Said Keselowski, "(In the final laps) we were about equal to Joey. He just had a little track position on me."

Kenseth stayed on the track as most of the field pitted under caution with 67 laps to go, picking track position and fresh air over new tires. It seemed the strategy could work, especially if he could stay in the high racing groove that gave drivers decidedly more speed off the corners.

But the Penske Racing teammates quickly proved the strategy faulty.

"I just knew that clean air was going to be worth more than new tires," Kenseth said after finishing third. He said he also felt his car wasn't as strong as he liked on fresh tires. "They cleared everybody way too fast."

He still remains in great position to make the playoffs, standing fifth in points and first among nonwinners.

But a victory would have sealed his spot in the 10-race Chase for the Championship; there are two races left before the Chase field is set.

Johnson, slowed early by two pit speeding penalties, rallied to finish fourth, and Kurt Busch was fifth.

Gordon remained the points leader despite a 16th-place run. He's 27 points clear of second-place Earnhardt and 42 up on No. 3 Keselowski.

With 100 laps to go, it looked like the series might get its 13th winner of 2014.

Jamie McMurray, who led a race-best 148 laps, was leading, followed by Kenseth, and Ryan Newman was ninth. As the final laps clicked off, though, McMurray faded to eighth, and Newman, once as high as seventh, dropped to 13th.

McMurray pitted with 67 laps to go but did not second-guess the decision.

"I see that Matt (Kenseth) wasn't able to win staying out," McMurray said. "I don't know what happened. Our car got really tight with about 100 laps to go. We freed it up in the last pit stop, and it didn't really help."

Kasey Kahne, another driver desperate for a victory or a surge in points, led 40 laps. But he pitted under green with a loose wheel and went two laps down. He wound up 35th.

It was another rough night for Tampa's Aric Almirola, who has had six of those in a row since his first career victory, in the Coke Zero 400 on July 6 at Daytona, secured his Chase spot.

Almirola, who started 42nd after crashing in qualifying, completed just 37 laps before crashing. He wound up completing 123 laps to finish 41st. "What an amazing race car these guys brought me — two of them — and to go out like that is certainly disappointing. But that's racing at Bristol," he said. "You get caught up in other people's wrecks."

Sprint Cup points

After 24 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jeff Gordon*** 845—

Dale Earnhardt Jr.*** 818 27

Brad Keselowski*** 776 69

Joey Logano*** 761 84

Matt Kenseth 751 94

Jimmie Johnson*** 726 119

Kevin Harvick** 721 124

Carl Edwards** 716 129

Ryan Newman 710 135

Clint Bowyer 699 146

Greg Biffle 694 151

Kyle Larson 668 177

Each asterisk (*) equals one win.

Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results Monday.

Chase at a glance

All 12 Sprint Cup race winners thus far this season have qualified for the 16-car Chase for the Championship. Here's the picture:

Clinched (in order of seeding)

Three wins: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson

Two wins: Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards

One win: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola

Contenders

In Chase as it stands: Matt Kenseth (751 points), Ryan Newman (710), Clint Bowyer (699), Greg Biffle (694)

Outside looking in: Kyle Larson (668), Kasey Kahne (661), Austin Dillon (654), Paul Menard (649), Jamie McMurray (634)

Up next

Oral-B USA 500, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31, Atlanta Motor Speedway.

TV/radio: ESPN; 102.5-FM

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 92.965 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 52 minutes

Margin of victory: 0.390 seconds

Caution flags: Nine for 64 laps

Lead changes: 16 among nine drivers

Lap leaders: Harvick 1-37; Gordon 38-54; Ky.Busch 55-62; Harvick 63; Kenseth 64-103; Logano 104-132; Hamlin 133-160; Harvick 161-197; Kahne 198-237; McMurray 238-265; Keselowski 266-311; McMurray 312-360; Logano 361; McMurray 362-432; Logano 433; Kenseth 434-455; Logano 456-500

Joey Logano takes Sprint Cup victory at Bristol 08/23/14 [Last modified: Saturday, August 23, 2014 11:57pm]

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