Joey Logano proved that the best offense was a good defense en route to his third win at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
Logano took the lead from Kevin Harvick on the final restart. He held off the No. 4 over the final 45 laps for his first victory since winning at pre-pandemic Phoenix in March.
With his 26th-career Cup win, Logano advanced to the Championship 4 round for the first time since winning the title in 2018.
“You gotta want it, man,” Logano said. “What an amazing team this Shell Pennzoil team is. I am worn out. I spent more time in the mirror than I did in the windshield there. Pit stops got us positions and got us the lead. The 4 was fast, real fast, especially down the straightaways. I thought if I could hold him off the first 15 laps that I would have a chance. Dirty air was the best for us.
“As we caught lap traffic I was able to gap ourselves as he got more dirty air and I was able to draft somebody because I was a little slow down the straightaway. Man, I am exhausted after that. We are going to Phoenix and racing for a championship again. Heck yeah!”
Harvick finished .312-seconds behind. Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell rounded out the top 10.
Truex failed pre-race inspection and was forced to start the race from the rear of the field. Elliott, who started from the pole, led the first 27 laps and won the stage despite suffering radio issues throughout the course of the race.
After pitting during the competition caution on Lap 47, Playoff contender Kurt Busch was busted for speeding and dropped to 31st. Harvick took the lead on the Lap 31 restart but was passed by Elliott 13 circuits later. Elliott maintained the point to capture his ninth stage win of the season.
Denny Hamlin took the lead for the Lap 87 restart with Blaney in tow. The No. 11 gave up the point to pit during green-flag stops on Lap 124 but recycled to the lead after the third caution on Lap 146 when Matt Kenseth miscalculated a pass and collected Erik Jones. He held serve to the end of the second segment on Lap 160 for his 10th stage win of 2020.
Kyle Busch took the lead on Lap 164—but it was short-lived. As soon as the race returned to green on Lap 169, Harvick was back in control. While battling for fifth, Hamlin slid up into the Turn 4 wall and was forced to pit to change the right rear tire. He dropped to 29th and would finish 15th. Hamlin remains second in the standings but saw his advantage shrink to 20 points ahead of fifth-place Elliott.
“Obviously we damaged the car and at these tracks, you can’t have any damage on the car," Hamlin said. "I was fortunate to get a couple cautions there to get us back on the lead lap. That was as far as I could go with the damage that I had. It just hurt the FedEx Camry so bad. To finish 15th with that damage, that was the best we could probably hope for with that damage. Still, definitely had a race-winning car today. Just threw it in the fence.”
Kurt Busch was the next Playoff driver to have issues—but his problem proved catastrophic. He initially reported a lack of power on Lap 191, but the engine on the No. 1 Chevy blew on Lap 198 igniting the fifth caution. Busch finished 38th and fell 73 points below the cutline.
"I haven’t seen an engine problem in years," Busch said. "No fault of anybody at Hendrick engines. We’re running hard here. We were running top-five and there’s a ton of RPM down the front-straightaway with the tailwind. We were right in the mix. We were doing the deal. I just couldn’t quite clear some guys to get into that top-three or four and then our car would come back to us on the long run after about lap 30.
“It’s a shame for everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing. Having an engine failure in the Playoffs – it’s just like a huge parachute that slows you up. We’ll pack that parachute up, throw it away and we’ll go to Texas to win. We knew we were going to have to win either here or Texas. Martinsville we have a shot at it, too. The odds are stacked against us, but hey, we’re in the top-eight for a reason."
Harvick appeared to have the race in command until Tyler Reddick hit the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 221. The No. 4 Ford had led a race-high 85 laps entering pit road. But with a tremendous stop, Logano came out of the pits with the lead and selected the outside lane on the restart. A dogfight ensued between Logano and Harvick over the final 43 circuits. With an assist from spotter T.J. Majors, Logano blocked his way to his third win of the season.
"My spotter T.J. did a great job wherever he stands now," Logano said. "I don't know if they put him on top of the roof anymore. Wherever he was, he got a good view, gave me a lot of good information. From there, you stay on the mirror. When he goes, you go. Try to throw some dirty air up there, make sure he doesn't get to break the plane, gets to the right or left of you, be able to side draft you from there. That's the biggest thing, trying to hold that position."
After losing the lead in the pits, Harvick knew he was at a disadvantage entering the endgame.
“We just needed to get off of pit road first,” Harvick said. “It came down to controlling that restart and we lost the lead there on the restart and wound up trying to battle and didn’t get the lead on the restart but just really, really fast Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang.
“All our guys did a great job and we had a fast car, we moved all over the race track and we weren’t the best behind somebody but I had a lot of options as they made the car better towards the end of the race. It was a good run for us. I wish we could have one, but we were one short.”
Harvick retained the points lead and extended his advantage to 21 points over Hamlin as the NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.