Posted By: David Morgan – Follow at @damorgan86
October 13, 2015
Heading into this weekend’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte, 12 drivers remained eligible for the championship after last week’s first Chase cutoff at Dover and were ready to do battle on the 1.5 mile speedway for the first race in the Contender Round.
Despite being delayed a day due to rain, Charlotte was supposed to be the race in this round that should have been the calmest of the three, however, that was far from the case for some of the Chase contenders. So how did your favorite Chase driver fare at NASCAR’s home track? We run it all down for you in this Charlotte edition of “Chasing the Championship”.
LOCKED INTO THE ELIMINATOR ROUND
- Joey Logano – Bank of America 500 Winner – Points Leader
Logano started the day in third and quickly established himself as one of the fastest cars on track. Moving into the lead for the first time at lap 77, Logano was untouchable, as he was pursued throughout the day by the No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick. Logano only lost the lead during cycles of green flag pit stops and each cycle, Logano would find himself pulling further and further away from the field. In the end, Logano would lead 227 of the 334 laps in the race to score his first win at Charlotte and his Eliminator Round clinching win. This makes two years in a row that Logano has won the opening race of the Contender Round to move on.
“We had a great car. Todd Gordon and this Shell/Pennzoil team, all of Team Penske, you always want to win it. Charlotte is everybody’s home turf and you want to make it happen here. What a great car. We led a ton of laps and I just have to thank Ford and Shell and AutoTrader, SKF, Coca-Cola – everyone that supports what we’re doing. This makes Talladega way easier. I know that’s on everyone’s mind when this round starts and last year we won Kansas when it was the first race of this round and now we were able to get it this time at Charlotte. We’ll get lots of sleep here the next couple of weeks.”
REMAINING DRIVERS CURRENTLY IN POSITION TO TRANSFER TO ELIMINATOR ROUND
- Kevin Harvick – Finished Second – Second in Points (-6)
Defending winner of the Bank of America 500, Harvick came into Sunday looking to make it back to back wins. However, his No. 4 Chevrolet was not quite fast enough to conquer eventual race winner Logano. Harvick started 11th and stayed in the runner-up position for the majority of the day, only getting the better of Logano during cycles of green flag pit stops and finishing the day .703 seconds out of the lead.
“We could hang with him (Joey Logano), but I would just lose him every once in a while in traffic. It was just extremely hard to pass. But all in all, we weren’t very good all weekend and the guys just did a great job on pit road and made our car better throughout the day and were able to make our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet better as we went on. So, I’m just really proud of that. And if those are the off-days, we’ll be just fine.”
- Martin Truex, Jr. – Finished Third – Third in Points (-7)
A mediocre qualifying effort that left Truex to start 15th at Charlotte did not dim the efforts of Truex and his team as they worked on the car throughout the weekend in practice and during the race, making the car better as the day went along. In the end, Truex would score a third place finish to give him a strong start to the Contender Round of the Chase. The team now heads to Kansas, where they finished ninth after leading a race-high 95 laps back in May.
“It was just hard work and a never-give-up attitude. I’m just really proud of my guys. They stuck behind me and we worked really hard on it all weekend long. From the time practice was over on Friday until this morning, we were texting about the set-up and what we were going to do and what we had to do and what to focus on. I’m just proud of those guys for what they did. It was a true team effort and a testament to this team and their fight. I honestly, this morning, I was really nervous going into the race thinking we’d be lucky to run 15th with what we had in practice. And Jeff Burton asked me before the race what I thought about my car. And I was like I don’t know; I don’t feel too good about it. So, I’m just really proud of the guys for working hard. The pit stops were great on pit road. This was a big hurdle and now we go to our best track at Kansas; and hopefully getting two more.”
- Denny Hamlin – Finished Fourth – Fourth in Points (-8)
Hamlin had a much quieter day than his Joe Gibbs Racing counterparts as he started the day in fifth and bounced around in the top-10 for the majority of the race before finding himself in fourth place as the checkered flag waved.
“We were definitely better than what we were in practice no doubt. The FedEx Ground team did a great job. We switched everything overnight to try to get this car better and we got it to a top-five. Step one accomplished.”
“It’s a good day, definitely would have liked – you always want to win just to put that pressure off. A fourth-place finish obviously does good things for us and hopefully we go to Kansas and build on this.”