Logano, Keselowski on thin ice with Chase heading to Talladega
Kansas City, Kan. — Joey Logano knows he is in the most precarious of positions heading to the Chase elimination race at Talladega, tied for the eighth and final spot for advancing to the next round of NASCAR’s playoffs.
There are two clear strategies his Penske Racing team could employ.
The first is the relatively low-risk option: They could spend the entire race at the unpredictable superspeedway spying on Austin Dillon, who is even with him in points, and Denny Hamlin and Rochester Hills’ Brad Keselowski, who are also within striking distance, and ensure they get through on points.
The riskier option? Race to win, points be damned.
“That’s the way I race; I don’t know a different way,” said Logano, whose third-place finish behind Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards last weekend at Kansas made the points route possible.
“I’m sure we’ll talk about it this week, but I’m a racer.”
At least three Chase contenders don’t have the same dilemma. Harvick and Jimmie Johnson already are locked into the next round by virtue of their victories in the first two stops of the round, and Chase Elliott’s trouble for the second straight week left him in a must-win situation.
The other nine drivers are much like Logano, racing to win but keeping a wary eye on points.
“The big thing that swung everything around was Kevin winning,” Logano said. “We would have been in pretty good shape if he had finished second.
“It isn’t disappointing because we still should be proud of the effort we had, but it would have meant a lot if he finished second.”
Logano should at least have some confidence heading to the volatile restrictor-plate track. After years of mostly terrible results, he won there to complete a sweep of the entire round last fall.
Meanwhile, Dillon was third there earlier this year, Hamlin won there a couple years ago and Keselowski won for the fourth time there earlier this year.
“I don’t think it’s a must-win situation,” said Keselowski, who spun into the grass and tore up his car before finishing 38th at Kansas. “I’m not worried about it. I’m going to go there and bust my butt to try to win, but I don’t think it’s a must-win yet.”
Nico Rosberg sat slumped in his chair, exhausted and exasperated after another race and world title was taken away by Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Then came the hat toss seen around the world.
These friends-turned rivals return to Texas and the U.S. Grand Prix in different places, psychologically and in the title chase. This time, it’s Rosberg with the big lead and Hamilton running out of time.
“America has been good hunting ground for me,” said Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 33 points with four races left.
If Rosberg finishes second three times and finishes third once, he’ll still claim his first career championship. A Rosberg victory anywhere along the way would all but clinch it.
But, Rosberg has been a different driver since his moment of postrace infamy in 2015.
After Hamilton clinched last season’s title in Austin, he playfully tossed Rosberg his podium cap in the cool-down room. Ros
berg threw it back in a petulant moment captured on live TV.
“Last year this race didn’t work out so great, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there and get it right,” Rosberg said.