Joey Logano dominates en route to second Chase win; Jimmie Johnson wrecks, worst Chase finish since 2005


Joey Logano may not be Adonis, but he had just enough muscle under the hood of his Ford Fusion to hold off rookie Kyle Larson in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Logano dominated, leading a race-high122 laps of the 267-lap event, becoming the first two-time winner in this year’s Chase, having earned his first victory two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“That makes Talladega a whole lot easier,” crew chief Todd Gordon said over the team radio after Logano took the checkered flag.

“Hell yeah, it does,” Logano said in agreement.

It was a big boost for Team Penske after teammate Brad Keselowski suffered a tire failure and wrecked, ultimately finishing 36th.

“What a team and Ford I have here,” said Logano, who now has five wins thus far this season overall. “Getting us into the next round, that’s awesome.

“It means a lot. Team’s Penske where I need to be. Unfortunately, Brad didn’t have the best day, but we had a couple of fast Fords coming into here.

“… I’m having a blast this year and we have a real shot at winning the championship and I feel like we’re one of the teams to beat, so I’m having fun with it.”

With Sunday’s triumph, Logano becomes the first driver to earn a berth in the third round of the Chase, the Eliminator Round, which will ultimately set the four-driver field for the one-race shootout for the championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With his win in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Joey Logano vaults to the top of the Chase standings, holding a six-point edge over Kyle Busch. Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman are tied in third place, each nine points behind Logano.

Denny Hamlin is fifth (-11), followed by Kevin Harvick (-15), Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon (both tied for seventh in the rankings, each 17 points back).

And that’s where it gets really rough, particularly for Hendrick Motorsports, as three of its four drivers are now ranked in the bottom four of the 12-driver field heading into Saturday’s middle race of the Contender Round at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kasey Kahne is ranked ninth, 25 points behind Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 11th (-42) and Jimmie Johnson brings up the rear of the pack, 44 points back – or essentially one full race worth of points.

Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski is also sandwiched in that bottom four at 10th, 39 points back.

Updated Chase standings look after the first race of the Contender Round and fourth of 10 races overall:

1) Joey Logano, Leader
2) Kyle Busch -6
3) Carl Edwards -9
3) Ryan Newman -9
5) Denny Hamlin -11
6) Kevin Harvick -15
7) Matt Kenseth -17
7) Jeff Gordon -17
9) Kasey Kahne -25
10) Brad Keselowski -39
11) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -42
12) Jimmie Johnson -44

For Larson, who is still seeking his first career Sprint Cup win, it was his third runner-up finish this season.

“We were pretty equal, running the same laps on that same run,” Larson said. “It was a good finish. We were so even, I couldn’t do anything.

“… Another second (place), you can’t be too disappointed. The wins are going to come. I just have to be patient. Every time I’ve been in the top 3, getting close like this is going to make the win feel that much better.”

Several Chase drivers got off to poor starts due to a number of issues, primarily tire-related.

Among those were six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

That’s nearly half of the 12-driver Chase field that remains after last week’s elimination of four drivers from the original 16-driver field.

Johnson finished 40th, his worst Chase performance since Homestead in 2005. He was wrecked from behind by Greg Biffle and hit the inside retaining wall hard.

“I’m fine, obviously a big hit in the championship points,” Johnson told ESPN. “That’ll put a premium on next week and the week after. We have to be on our game at Charlotte and Talladega. There’s still a lot of racing left.”

And then there was Keselowski, who looked very strong early in the race until he also suffered a tire issue.

“We blew a tire, not really sure why,” Keselowski said. “We weren’t really running an aggressive setup in the car and blew a tire. … It was Russian Roulette and it was our turn.”

Kyle Busch finished third followed by Martin Truex Jr.’s strongest run of the season.

Carl Edwards was fifth, followed by fellow Chasers Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin in sixth and seventh.

Eighth through 11th were Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger, who was eliminated from the Chase after last week’s race at Dover.

Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick led 61 laps but fell back to finish 12th.

Matt Kenseth finished 13th, followed by Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Marcos Ambrose.

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Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.