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.
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.
Fans headed to southern Virginia for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville Speedway will see a post-season twin bill as the 2016 schedule enters its final month. Six title contenders remain in the inaugural Truck Series Chase heading into Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 200 led by top-seeded rookie William Byron. Also still on The Chase Grid are Christopher Bell, Timothy Peters, Ben Kennedy, Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton … In the Sprint Cup Series, the title field is down to eight for the final short-track race of the 2016 season, Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Kyle Busch, the Number-1 seed in this year’s Chase, is looking for a season sweep on the Virginia half-mile after winning the year’s first stop there in early April. Denny Hamlin’s the last driver to win both races in a single season, doing so 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.
Jimmie Johnson returned to familiar ground on Sunday afternoon – Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He entered the weekend as the track’s all-time leader with seven Cup Series wins. He exits with his eighth career victory on the mile-and-a-half North Carolina oval, punching his ticket into the next round of the post-season Chase. As successful as Johnson has been at C-M-S, his last win there before Sunday came more than two years ago. Johnson got the best of race leader Matt Kenseth on the day’s final restart and drove away to his third win of the season but first since March 20th at Auto Club Speedway, in the fifth race of the year! The six-time champion started eleventh and led a race-high 155 laps in notching his seventy-eighth career victory – beating runner-up Kenseth to the checkered flag by a second-and-a-half. Kasey Kahne finished third, giving Hendrick Motorsports two of the top three spots. Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson completed the top five … Kevin Harvick started from the pole but led just twelve laps before retiring with engine failure late in the first half of the race. Harvick wasn’t the only Chase driver finishing near the bottom of the running order in Charlotte. Denny Hamlin placed thirtieth, also suffering engine failure. Austin Dillon ran thirty-second, rookie Chase Elliott thirty-third and Joey Logano was thirty-sixth in the forty-car field … Kyle Busch, the Number-1 seed in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, started sixth and finished fourth on Sunday. He’s third in the post-season standings, nine points behind leader Johnson.
The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rolls on from Delaware to North Carolina for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s the opening race in the Round of Twelve, with the remaining drivers on The Chase Grid hoping to avoid elimination when the field is further reduced to eight in three weeks. All twelve drivers have had their championship points reset to three thousand, and any one of the twelve that wins a race in the next three weeks will automatically advance to the Round of Eight that opens October 30th at Martinsville Speedway … Chase drivers have won the fall race at Charlotte in ten of the twelve years the post-season title format has been in place. The only two non-chase drivers to win during that stretch are Jamie McMurray in 2010 and Brad Keselowski in 2013 … Kyle Busch, the top seed in this year’s Chase, has never won a points-paying Cup Series race in Charlotte. He’s been to Victory Lane there a combined fourteen times in the X-FINITY and Camping World Truck Series … Of the drivers still in contention for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson has the most wins at C-M-S: seven … Martin Truex Junior will roll into Charlotte with a full head of steam, having won two of the three post-season races so far. And, oh by the way … earlier this season, he won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after leading all but eight of the four hundred laps run … Truex entered this year’s Chase as the Number-6 seed but ended the first round Number-1.
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.