Next stop Ford Championship Weekend At Homestead-Miami Speedway which will feature Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, where NASCAR will crown its sixty-eighth Cup Series champion. The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup concludes with the four-hundred- mile event, in which The Championship Four – Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano – will vie for the title that goes to the highest-finishing driver in that group … For Johnson, it’s a chance to win what would be a record-tying seventh Cup Series crown that would match Hall of Fame drivers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.
Johnson entered the post-season as only the Number-8 seed but steered his way into title contention with victories in Charlotte and at Martinsville Speedway … Kyle Busch entered the post-season as the Number-1 seed and is bidding to become the first driver with back-to- back Cup Series titles since Johnson strung five in a row together from 2006 through 2010 … Edwards and Logano are still hunting for their first Cup Series crown.
Edwards has finished second twice, in 2008 and 2011. Logano’s best championship finish is fourth two seasons ago.
Joey Logano outraced Kyle Busch and survived an overtime finish to win the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday. Logano and Busch will join Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in Miami as the four divers that will race for the Sprint Cup Series Championship. Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth looked as if he was on his way to Victory Lane and a Championship 4 berth when he spun into the wall after contact from Alex Bowman on the first overtime restart setting up the final battle between Logano and Busch. Bowman had the dominant car leading three times for 194 laps but was shuffled back during the incident with Kenseth on the overtime restart. Bowman would finish a disappointing sixth but showed he is capable of competing at the Sprint Cup level while substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season. Denny Hamlin saw his hopes of getting to run for a title at Homestead go away when pit strategy to stay out late in the race backfired. A series of caution flags cycled Hamlin back and on older tires he wasn’t able to challenge once he dropped in the field. Kenseth, Hamlin, Harvick and Kurt Busch all failed to advance in the Chase. Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard completed the top 10 finishers. The race was slowed nine times for fifty-three laps and saw eight lead changes among five drivers.
There are more than one hundred drivers entered across NASCAR’s three national series for this coming weekend’s tripleheader at Phoenix International Raceway. At this point of the post-season, just three are certain they’ll be racing for a championship the following weekend in Miami. In the Sprint Cup Series, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson have advanced by virtue of victories in the semifinal round of the Chase. Six drivers remain in contention for the final two spots, with Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch – both former champions – likely facing a must-win situation to move on. In the inaugural Truck Series Chase, Johnny Sauter has swept the first two races in the Round of Six and will seek his first championship next week in Miami. Five drivers are left to battle for the three other spots. And in the X-FINITY Series, six drivers are currently in the mix for a berth in The Championship Four that will head to South Florida for the November 19th season finale.
The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup moves from Texas to Arizona, with the final race in the Round of Eight coming up Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. The eight-driver field will be trimmed to four following the Can-Am 500. Chase participants have won this race in ten of the twelve years it’s been run as part of NASCAR’s “post-season” format. The only non-Chase competitors to win the fall race at P-I-R during that stretch are Kyle Busch in 2005 and Kasey Kahne in 2011.
► Seven of the eight drivers remaining in the semifinal round of the Chase have won a Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway: Kurt and Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Joey Logano’s best finish there is third on two occasions, most recently in this race last year … Dating back to November 2012, Harvick has won six of the last eight races contested at P-I-R – including this year’s first stop on March 13th … So far this fall, all eight post-season races have been won by drivers on the original Chase Grid. The best finish by a non-Chase competitor is Brian Scott’s runner-up effort at Talladega Superspeedway sixteen days ago, when he finished second to Logano.
AAA TEXAS 500: Carl Edwards applied the brakes to Joe Gibbs Racing’s post-season winless streak Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway, getting a lightning-fast pit stop from his crew and a timely shower from “Mother Nature” to claim victory and secure a spot in the championship race later this month in Miami. As an organization, J-G-R’s four drivers – Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – combined to win eleven of the twenty-six regular-season races but were oh-for-seven in this year’s Chase heading into Sunday’s race. Rain delayed the start from afternoon to evening and then stopped the race forty-one laps short of its scheduled distance. In between, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Junior combined to lead 244 laps. But Edwards’ pit crew gave him four fresh tires and fuel in under twelve seconds on their final stop of the night less than forty laps from the finish. The Number-19 Toyota was the first car off pit road and it stayed in front the rest of the way to give Edwards his twenty-eighth career victory and fourth on the Fort Worth oval. Logano grabbed second place after leading a race-high 178 laps. Truex was third with rookie Chase Elliott and Busch – the Number-1 seed in the Chase – completing the top five. Pole sitter Austin Dillon led just six laps and was sidelined by an accident late in the race, finishing thirty-seventh in the forty-car field … With the victory, Edwards joins Jimmie Johnson as the first two drivers to clinch berths in The Championship Four. The six other title contenders will be vying for two remaining spots next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Next stop Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 as the semifinal round of the post-season Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins. The eight remaining title contenders are traveling along a path that will ultimately lead to a championship for one with 1,076 “Miles-2-Miami” left before Ford Championship Weekend in November. This will be the sixth and final short-track race of the year and the only Chase race to be run on an oval less than one mile in length. Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the 2016 short-track schedule with wins in four of the five races run thus far. Carl Edwards has victories at Richmond International Raceway and Bristol. Denny Hamlin won last month in Richmond and Kyle Busch was victorious in this year’s first visit to Martinsville on April 3rd. All four of J-G-R’s Cup Series competitors, including Matt Kenseth, have advanced to the Chase’s Round of Eight … Busch is bidding to become the first driver to sweep both Martinsville races in a single season since Hamlin doubled up in 2010.
For 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, this year’s post-season has been an up-and-down experience. Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, Harvick was “UP” … charging past race leader Carl Edwards on the day’s final restart and driving off to victory – securing one of the eight spots in the next round of the 2016 Chase. Harvick opened the post-season with a twentieth-place finish last month at Chicagoland Speedway, followed by a victory in New Hampshire. But then, he was slowed by finishes of thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth before Sunday’s return to glory. Harvick now joins Jimmie Johnson as the only two drivers with guaranteed spots in the Round of Eight that opens in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway. Sunday’s margin of victory over runner-up Edwards was one-point-one seconds. Joey Logano … gunning for his second straight victory in the track’s fall Cup Series race … ran third. Johnson, last week’s winner in Charlotte, placed fourth. Kyle Busch, this year’s Number-1 seed in the post-season Chase, completed the top five in his bid for a season sweep on the Kansas City oval, having won there in early May … Pole sitter Matt Kenseth led a race-high 116 laps and finished ninth … Sunday’s race included sixteen lead changes among ten drivers … There were eight cautions for thirty-eight laps … With the 2016 Chase now at its halfway point, three different drivers have won the first five races. Harvick and Martin Truex Junior have two victories apiece with one for Johnson.
Kevin Harvick was masterful on the day’s final restart Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, roaring past race leader Matt Kenseth to claim victory and advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick started nineteenth and led just eight laps all afternoon. But after dispatching Kenseth on the decisive restart, he kept his Number-4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in front over the final six circuits to notch his third victory of the season and at the same time, deny Kenseth his third straight win on “The Magic Mile.” Harvick, the Number-4 seed, now joins Martin Truex Junior in the Round of Twelve that opens October 8th in Concord, North Carolina. Kenseth took second place on Sunday, a half-second behind Harvick. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch completed the top five. Chase drivers filled the top eight spots in the final running order with Kasey Kahne the highest-finishing non-title contender, in ninth place … Carl Edwards started from the pole, led the first thirty laps and finished sixth. Truex dominated the first half of the race, leading 141 of the first 178 laps en route to a seventh-place finish … Keselowski’s fourth-place finish was enough to lift him into the post-season points lead, by one over Truex and two over Kyle Busch … Toyota drivers dominated the day by leading all but twenty of the laps run on the one-mile oval … Sunday’s race included fourteen lead changes among eight drivers.
Denny Hamlin took his final lead of the night with seventy-nine laps remaining Saturday at Richmond International Raceway and kept the Number-11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front through six subsequent restarts, closing the regular season with his third victory of the year and securing the Number-3 seed in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that opens next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Hamlin’s margin of victory over runner-up Kyle Larson was six-tenths of a second. Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 193 laps and nabbed third place with Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick completing the top five. Hamlin started from the pole and led 189 laps to give J-G-R a season sweep on the three-quarter-mile Fairgrounds oval. Carl Edwards was victorious in April but finished thirty-second in his bid for back-to-back wins there … With The Chase Grid now filled, championship points have been reset. Keselowski and Kyle Busch are tied at the top by virtue of their four victories during the regular season. Busch gets the Number-1 seed by winning the tiebreaker, which is based on second-place finishes. He has three, Keselowski one. With two wins this year, Harvick – the regular-season points leader – holds the Number-4 seed … The four drivers who went into the weekend holding the final four provisional spots in the Chase – Chris Buescher, rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray – came out of the weekend with their post-season tickets punched after finishing among the top twenty-five in the forty-car field.
With the final weekend of the regular season now looming at Richmond International Raceway, there are three spots still open on The Chase Grid for non-race winners to fill heading into Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Sprint Cup Series race. Thirteen drivers have been victorious in 2016: Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher. All are within the requisite top thirty of the standings, which currently leaves a maximum of three post-season spots available based on the point standings. Four drivers are in the mix for those final three spots: rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman – who trails McMurray by seven points in the fight for the final “playoff” spot … Any driver who hasn’t yet won but reaches Victory Lane at Richmond would qualify for the post-season, provided that driver is among the top thirty in points, and would reduce the number of spots available based on the regular-season standings … With the post-season now right around the corner, the race for the Number-1 seed on The Chase Grid is coming down to a two-man battle between Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Brad Keselowski (Team Penske). Each has four victories in 2016. Busch is a four-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series at R-I-R while Keselowski has one victory there. They finished second and eleventh, respectively, in this year’s first race at Richmond on April 24th.