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

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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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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”