CONCORD, N.C. - Team Penske drivers Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski all survived a hectic race on the Charlotte Roval Sunday afternoon to advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Logano and Blaney advanced on the strength of seventh and ninth-place finishes, respectively, while Keselowski battled through a couple of on-track spins to finish 20th and claim one of the final spots. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick was eliminated after hitting the wall with 11 laps to go, which ended his day in 33rd place.
While most of the focus was on those playoff drivers looking to advance in the elimination race, it was a pair of non-playoff teams that ended up leading the Ford effort. Roush Fenway driver Chris Buescher, who finished sixth a week ago at Talladega Superspeedway, followed that up with a manufacturer-best third-place run on Sunday. He was followed by Wood Brother Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto, who ended up sixth.
The playoffs now reset with the Round of 8, which will feature races at Texas, Kansas and Martinsville. The top four after those three events will advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix next month.
The Round of 8 kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM).
PLAYOFF STANDINGS ENTERING THE ROUND OF 8
Kyle Larson +42
Denny Hamlin +7
Martin Truex Jr. +6
Ryan Blaney +1
Kyle Busch -1
Chase Elliott -2
Joey Logano -11
Brad Keselowski -16
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
16th -- Michael McDowell
18th -- Cole Custer
20th -- Brad Keselowski
22nd -- Chase Briscoe
24th -- Aric Almirola
26th -- Anthony Alfredo
27th -- Joey Hand
28th -- Josh Bilicki
31st -- Scott Heckert
32nd -- Timmy Hill
33rd -- Kevin Harvick
39th -- Ryan Newman
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang
“That was a fun time. I’m really appreciative of everybody on this Fastenal Ford Mustang group. We worked hard. We were able to stay on pace all day and had a gameplan and followed through and ultimately got us into the top five. I had a top three there, but it got a little rough there at the end and I made a mistake with probably five to go and unfortunately we didn’t have a shot to win because of that, but we were definitely in the hunt. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the day. I’m pretty thankful for everybody.”
WHAT ABOUT THOSE CLOSING LAPS WITH GUYS NEEDING TO GAIN SPOTS?
“I see bad blood on either side of us with people arguing right now. I guess from our side of things there wasn’t a whole lot for the last couple of laps, but the Roval is always tough, it’s always brutal. Cars never come back looking as good as they started, but we hung in there and got a really solid finish out of it today. I’m just really proud of everybody.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Wurth Ford Mustang
“I’m glad I don’t have to do that again. We got out of here and advanced and we’ll move on to Texas and focus on that, but it was not the prettiest of days. Thank goodness we ran so good at Talladega.”
HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT ROUND?
“A lot. I’m just glad to get out of this one. You fight them one at a time and that’s what we did today.”
HOW WAS YOUR DAY?
“It wasn’t pretty, but the team did an excellent job helping me fight through it, which was really nice. It was a really frustrating day, but we built a good enough cushion at Talladega to be able to afford a little bit of a rough day and get through it.”
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON TEXAS?
“I’m hoping for big things at Texas, Kansas and Martinsville -- three tracks that we’ve run really well at in the past. I’m hopeful for big things.”
IS IT JUST A SPEED ISSUE WITH THE 550 PACKAGE?
“Yeah. My team has been so good all year with respect to the pit stops and all those things, and they’ve kind of carried us in so many different ways, but we haven’t had that race dominant speed. If we can find that, we’ll be a really tough team.”
WERE YOU WORRIED YOU WERE OUT OF IT AT ONE POINT?
“It didn’t look good a couple times, but I just kind of held the faith and tried to do damage control and it worked out.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang -- YOUR RACE CAR IS TORN UP.
“So much for keeping it clean. That was the plan, but just ended up having a rough day, but ended up finishing seventh and even a shot at a top five or top three towards the end of the race. I’m proud of our Shell/Pennzoil team. I got into Preece and dumped him early in the race and that was my mistake. I just went in there too hard and needed all the racetrack, so the good thing for him is I don’t think it affected his day, but, overall, we’re moving onto the Round of 8. It’s a great accomplishment. We’re proud of that. It’s onto the next three and try to score a bunch of points maybe or get a win. That might be the easiest way of doing it.”
IT LOOKS LIKE YOU”RE DOING ALL YOU CAN.
“We’re maximizing the races. That’s what we’ve got. Our speed is close enough to point your way in. It’s hard to win where we’re at. We’ve got to be a little bit faster to be up there contending for a win, but we keep doing what we’re doing and grinding it out and focus on every point. That’s our slogan for the playoffs is every point and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do -- look for every opportunity that’s there and don’t make mistakes throughout it and be in the Championship 4 again.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang
WHAT HAPPENED IN TURN ONE?
“I just pushed it in there too hard and I got the tire locked up and I couldn’t stop it once I felt like I needed to go to get a couple spots back that I had lost, and I got the left-front locked up and I couldn’t get it to turn.”
WAS THE INCIDENT WITH THE 9 EARLIER IN THE RACE RETALIATION FROM BRISTOL?
“Sometimes real life teaches you good lessons.”
“I got in there too far and locked the left-front tire up and I couldn’t get it to stop. I just got in there way too far.”
WAS THAT PAYBACK WITH THE 9?
“You remember Bristol.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang
“It was a solid day. We did well in the stages and got some good stage points. We had to cycle back to the back a couple times, but with the spot we were in a lot of people they just wanted good stage points and we did a good job of that. At the end with all of those late cautions and people in desperation mode you just don’t want to get wrecked. You want to just try to finish the race and not get turned around and put yourself in a really bad spot, so was kind of little bit cautious at the end, but we did what we needed to do today and move on. It’s nice.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEXT ROUND?
“I think those are three pretty decent tracks for us. You’ve got to have good runs. You can’t have any mistakes, but I think Texas, Kansas, Martinsville we’ve always had really good runs at, so you’re gonna have to have great runs at these tracks. Hopefully try to win one of the races and get to Phoenix.”