CONCORD, N.C. - Joey Logano finished second and Ryan Blaney was fifth to lead Ford as Chase Elliott (Chevrolet) emerged with another win at the Charlotte Roval Sunday.
Cole Custer and Clint Bowyer gave Ford a quartet of Mustangs in the top-10 in a wet and wild day at the unpredictable track that ended the Round of 12.
Logano entered the race in the eighth and final transfer spot, safe by 21 points. The No. 22 Team Penske Ford was the only playoff car to score stage points in both stages, coming eighth in Stage 1 and fifth in Stage 2. That gave him an additional nine points, and plenty of cushion for the fast-and-furious ending.
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field was trimmed from 12 title-eligible drivers to eight after the race as four drivers were eliminated from championship eligibility including defending Cup Series champ Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and the Mustangs of Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola.
Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Almirola and Bowyer had trouble in the race. Almirola spun midway through Stage 2, and Bowyer slowed with 37 laps to go as he lost power steering.
Three Ford drivers remain among the eight still eligible for the 2020 championship. Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will take the championship hopes of Ford fans into next weekend when the Cup Series’ heads to Kansas Speedway next Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Kansas Speedway.
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Chase Elliott
2nd -- Joey Logano
3rd -- Erik Jones
4th -- Kurt Busch
5th -- Ryan Blaney
6th -- William Byron
7th -- Martin Truex Jr.
8th -- Alex Bowman
9th -- Cole Custer
10th -- Clint Bowyer
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th -- Kevin Harvick
16th -- Aric Almirola
18th -- Brad Keselowski
20th -- Chris Buescher
22nd -- Matt DiBenedetto
26th -- Gray Gaulding
27th -- Corey LaJoie
31st -- Ryan Newman
32nd -- Michael McDowell
33rd -- Josh Bilicki
36th -- John Hunter Nemechek
NASCAR PLAYOFF UPDATE (Round of 8 Drivers)
1. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
2. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
3. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford
4. Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford
6. Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota|
7. Alex Bowman, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
8. Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang
WITH ALL THAT WAS ON THE LINE TODAY IS THIS A DAY WHERE YOU JUST TAKE SECOND AND MOVE ONTO THE NEXT ROUND?
“Yeah, we won our league (laughing) because no one was beating that other car -- the Chase Elliott and Alan and that whole 9 team. They’re light years ahead of us when it comes to the road course, I mean everybody even their teammates. I can’t really put my finger on it. I got a good look of what it was and watched him cruise around not even trying and he would keep on driving away from me. Overall, I’m proud of what our Shell/Pennzoil team did today. We had to come in here and execute. Obviously, there were plenty of crazy things that could have happened starting in the rain, going to slicks, stage points, trying to get ourselves in position. Obviously, there were times that the 18 was in the spot and we were racing the 88 with only a couple points between us, so it was close, it was stressful, but I feel a lot better now and will be able to sleep well tonight and then fire away to try and get into that Championship 4.”
WHEN THE 18 WAS LEADING WHAT WAS THE PRESSURE LIKE? “It’s life. I learned a long time ago in this sport that pressure is a privilege. That means you’re in the hunt. That means you’ve got something going on. If you have no pressure on you, it means you’re already out or you’re about to be out and you have nothing to lose. I love that pressure. I’ve learned to love it. It’s not comfortable. It’s not supposed to be comfortable, but it’s a good place to be and it’s nice when you’re able to succeed and get through it. It only helps you years and years on as you keep putting yourself in those spots to keep doing that, and not just me, but the whole team. Our pit crew was on it today. Paul had a great strategy to keep us up there and some good restarts as well, so it worked out.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford Mustang
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DAY?
“It started off real strong in the rain and there’s part of me that wishes it would have just stayed raining, believe it or not, but once it got dry I just kept falling off too much on the long run. I’d fire off real good and fall off and couldn’t keep pace, so I’m thankful that’s over. It’s a testament to the four wins we have earlier in the year. It gives us those bonus points and made this a lot easier day than it looked like it was gonna be, and we’ll move on to hopefully four good race weeks for us.”
YOU ASKED A LOT OF QUESTIONS ON THE RADIO TODAY. IS THAT NORMAL OR WERE YOU MORE CONCERNED THAN NORMAL?
“You want to know when you control your own destiny and obviously we were able to do that and then it’s just about, ‘Hey, let’s not ruin our own day,’ so that’s what we tried to do.”
CONFIDENCE IN THE ROUND OF 8?
“Yeah, Martinsville has been really good to us. Kansas, we ran second in the fall. Texas is probably our weakest, but I think we can win at the other two.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE RACE?
“It was definitely interesting. Our car was just way off handling-wise. We were just way too tight and had no drive up off the corner, whether it was wet or dry. We struggled with our Mobil 1 Ford and still probably should have finished somewhere seventh or eighth, but didn’t have the car where we needed to and wound up on the wrong side of all the strategies and things, but everybody did a good job and kept battling. It was actually a lot of fun.”
HOW STRONG DO YOU FEEL GOING INTO THE NEXT ROUND?
“This wasn’t a great round for us, so we definitely need to do better.”
IT SEEMED YOU COULDN’T GET TRACK POSITION.
“Yeah, our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang was just off today. It would blister all the rain tires and push really bad in the rain, and then it wasn’t quite as bad on slick tires and then all the strategy and everything with the damage and the caution coming out when we stayed out and had to come in, we just wound up midpack all day and struggled to get the car to handle right.”
THE NEXT ROUND HAS A SET OF TRACKS THAT FALLS IN YOUR WHEELHOUSE. HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU IN YOUR TEAM THE NEXT THREE RACES?
“We need to display that our cars are fast and do a good job on pit road and do the things that we did all year. Definitely two good racetracks for us coming up at Kansas and Texas and hopefully we can get a win in one of those two races and go on with it.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang
“It was tough. I struggle here in particular. I’m not the greatest road course racer, but specifically here has always been a challenge for me and I just struggled all day. We really struggled on the rain tires and I spun out over there in that water that was draining across the racetrack in turn four, and then we had an issue with a pit gun or something on pit road and got a lap down. We fought hard. It was definitely a fight, but just not the day we needed for sure to move on, but we still got a few races left to go perform at the highest level we can and try to get the most points we can. I’m still really proud of our season and proud of the effort of this team. We’ve got some racing left to do and hopefully get this Smithfield Ford Mustang in Victory Lane in one of these last few.”
ALMIROLA POST-RACE ZOOM CALL
“We struggled today. It was not the day we were hoping for, for sure. I struggle at this racetrack in particular anyway. It’s not one of my best racetracks, so I knew it was gonna be a challenge. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort. I put a tremendous amount of effort in through watching film and studying data and going to the simulator and all the things, but I still can’t put all the pieces of the puzzle together when it comes to making speed here at the Roval. It’s frustrating. I feel really bad for my team. We’ve got a great team and we’ve had a good season. We needed a great run today and a win really, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that today. I just didn’t do a good job.”
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR THESE LAST FOUR WEEKS BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN FAIRLY HIGH UP IN THE POINTS ALL YEAR?
“Yeah, we have. We’ve been in the top eight or nine in points and I think at one time we were sixth or seventh in points, so we’ve got a few races left and I think our goal should be to go and try and win. I think that’s the one positive is that even though we’re eliminated out of the playoffs we still get to race. We don’t go home and watch on TV. We still get to race and participate, so now we just got to go and make the most of these last four races and we’ve actually got really good tracks coming up for us. I was so hopeful to get through this round of 12. I felt like Talladega was gonna be our best chance and had a good run going there, and an unfortunate end to that. But coming to the Roval I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I was really looking forward to this next round. Kansas, Texas and even Martinsville have been really good racetracks for us, so I’m disappointed to not be in the playoffs still, but they’re still good racetracks for us.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang
“We had them covered in the rain and we were one of the fastest in the dry, but those cautions at the end of both stages came at the wrong time. Then that wreck killed us because we lost power-steering. The guys gave me a great car today.”
COMMENTS ABOUT GOING TO THE CARE CENTER
“I’m good. Was definitely outta gas. Another couple three laps and I’d have been on the ground after the race crappie floppin’. Self inflicted. I shouldn’t have knocked the power steering out.”