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Joey Logano wins again; Earnhardt Jr. among four eliminated from Chase

Joey Logano celebrates with champagne after his third Sprint Cup victory in a row and sixth this season.

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Joey Logano celebrates with champagne after his third Sprint Cup victory in a row and sixth this season.

TALLADEGA, Ala. — As Joey Logano made his third straight trip to Victory Lane, questions swirled about reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick's late-race tactics.

Several competitors accused Harvick of intentionally causing a race-ending caution in Sunday's Campingworld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, where Logano completed a sweep of the second round of NASCAR's playoffs.

It came at the expense of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was eliminated from the Chase for the Championship at his best track for the second consecutive year. Earnhardt led a race-high 61 laps, but settled for second in a race he had to win when the Harvick-triggered crash ended the race under caution.

NASCAR's most popular driver did not question his fate.

"When the race is over, I can live with the result as long as everyone else is going by the same rules," Earnhardt said. "I felt like per the rule book, it sorted out and I finished second. I'm okay with that."

NASCAR said last week it would make just one attempt at Talladega to finish the race under green instead of the usual three tries in a nod toward creating a safer racing environment.

Eliminated Sunday were Earnhardt, Ryan Newman — the runnerup to Harvick last year — and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. JGR was considered a heavy favorite in this Chase after a dominant regular season. Both eliminated JGR drivers were furious with Harvick.

Harvick had radioed to his crew under caution that a mechanical issue was preventing him from accelerating. But if he moved out of the way, he risked falling to the back of the field and potentially being knocked out of the Chase. So he stayed put, and when his car failed to take off on the restart, he hit Trevor Bayne as Bayne tried to dart around him, triggering a wreck. Earnhardt was unable to race Logano for the win once the caution was called.

"It was a pretty tough ending. (He) knew he was blowing up and told everybody he was going to stay in his lane," Kenseth said.

Denny Hamlin was even less diplomatic on Twitter after the race-ending accident, which ended with him climbing from his flaming car.

"What a joke we have a car with no motor wreck the field to end the race. Complete (junk). Sorry to anyone who spent $ coming to this circus," Hamlin's Twitter page read.

NASCAR reviewed video of the final restart several times and president Mike Helton said officials did not find anything amiss from Harvick.

Harvick said his issue was a broken exhaust pipe and "at the end, I was trying to get out of the way."

Logano's car was showered in beer — a show of disdain from the pro-Earnhardt crowd — as he entered Victory Lane.

"I was aiming for them … it's kind of a cool explosion when you hit beer cans," he said. "Kind of a shame they're throwing their beers full. It was like it was raining out there. But that's okay. Everyone's passionate about their driver. That's what makes our sport great."

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 167.311 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 6 minutes, 58 seconds

Margin of victory: Under caution

Caution flags: Three for 18 laps

Lead changes: 30 among 18 drivers

Lap leaders: Gordon 1-7; Earnhardt Jr. 8-10; Hamlin 11-14; Earnhardt Jr. 15; Hamlin 16; Earnhardt Jr. 17; Gordon 18; Earnhardt Jr. 19-39; Waltrip 40-41; Johnson 42-63; Earnhardt Jr. 64-79; Waltrip 80; Ragan 81; Menard 82; Logano 83-94; Bowyer 95-96; Harvick 97-100; Kahne 101-118; Stenhouse 119-120; Biffle 121; Johnson 122-133; Newman 134; Ku.Busch 135; Gilliland 136; Kenseth 137-139; Ky.Busch 140-150; Earnhardt Jr. 151-169; Menard 170; Gilliland 171; Biffle 172-188; Logano 189-196

Sprint Cup points

Through six of 10 races in the Chase for the Championship. The points were reset after Sunday's race at Talladega, with the top eight advancing with 4,000 points each:

Driver Pts Back

Joey Logano 4,000—

Carl Edwards 4,000—

Jeff Gordon 4,000—

Brad Keselowski 4,000—

Kurt Busch 4,000—

Martin Truex 4,000—

Kevin Harvick 4,000—

Kyle Busch 4,000—

Ryan Newman 3,095 905

Denny Hamlin 3,090 910

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3,083 917

Matt Kenseth 3,054 946

Up next

Goody's 500, 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

TV/radio: NBCSN, 102.5-FM

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 167.311 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 6 minutes, 58 seconds

Margin of victory: Under caution

Caution flags: Three for 18 laps

Lead changes: 30 among 18 drivers

Lap leaders: Gordon 1-7; Earnhardt Jr. 8-10; Hamlin 11-14; Earnhardt Jr. 15; Hamlin 16; Earnhardt Jr. 17; Gordon 18; Earnhardt Jr. 19-39; Waltrip 40-41; Johnson 42-63; Earnhardt Jr. 64-79; Waltrip 80; Ragan 81; Menard 82; Logano 83-94; Bowyer 95-96; Harvick 97-100; Kahne 101-118; Stenhouse 119-120; Biffle 121; Johnson 122-133; Newman 134; Ku.Busch 135; Gilliland 136; Kenseth 137-139; Ky.Busch 140-150; Earnhardt Jr. 151-169; Menard 170; Gilliland 171; Biffle 172-188; Logano 189-196

Sprint Cup points

Through six of 10 races in the Chase for the Championship. The points were reset after Sunday's race at Talladega, with the top eight advancing with 4,000 points each:

Driver Pts Back

Joey Logano 4,000—

Carl Edwards 4,000—

Jeff Gordon 4,000—

Brad Keselowski 4,000—

Kurt Busch 4,000—

Martin Truex 4,000—

Kevin Harvick 4,000—

Kyle Busch 4,000—

Ryan Newman 3,095 905

Denny Hamlin 3,090 910

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3,083 917

Matt Kenseth 3,054 946

Up next

Goody's 500, 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

TV/radio: NBCSN, 102.5-FM

Joey Logano wins again; Earnhardt Jr. among four eliminated from Chase 10/25/15 [Last modified: Sunday, October 25, 2015 9:54pm]
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