(Motorsport-Total.com) – The first of four finalists in the fight for the title in the NASCAR Cup Series 2020 has been determined. At the start of the “Round of 8” of the playoffs at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, victory went to Joey Logano (Penske-Ford) after a thrilling final duel of almost 50 laps.
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With his first win since March, Joey Logano made it to the final Zoom
At the beginning of the season, Logano had won two races in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Then came the compulsory break in the calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then he has searched in vain for the way to Victory Lane – to Hollywood Casino 400 on Kansas Speedway.
Logano’s opponent in the final phase was Kevin Harvick (Stewart / Haas-Ford), who had to admit defeat by 0.3 seconds after an eventful race for him. In return, Logano secured the ticket for the final at the first opportunity on the route on which he last won before the COVID-19 pandemic: Phoenix.
Stage 1 win for Elliott – problems for Harvick
Chase Elliott (Hendrick-Chevrolet), who started from the best starting position, led the field under heavily overcast skies and with temperatures of just seven degrees Celsius. Behind him there was a fierce battle for positions from the start.
The low temperatures meant that the field was closer together than in many other races on a 1.5-mile oval. The result was thrilling battles for positions, especially after restarts. However, collisions or even crashes remained the exception.
Most of the leadership work in the first racing segment (Stage 1) was done by Kevin Harvick. In the last laps of the first 80-lap segment, however, he had to let go with handling problems. While Elliott drove to the Stage 1 victory, Harvick fell from second to seventh position within a few laps.
Apart from Elliott and Harvick, there were bonus points for Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano in the ranks of the eight remaining playoff participants. Truex Jr. saw the stage flag in eighth place after starting the race from the back because the # 19 Gibbs Toyota had failed technical inspections twice.
Stage 2 win for Hamlin – luck for Harvick
In Stage 2, Denny Hamlin (Gibbs-Toyota) did most of the leading work. Meanwhile, Harvick almost stumbled upon Ty Dillon (Germain-Chevrolet) in the course of a Green Flag stop. When Dillon turned into the pit lane, luck was able to avoid a collision.
After a collision between Erik Jones (Gibbs-Toyota) and Matt Kenseth (Ganassi-Chevrolet) there was a sprint to the stage flag. Hamlin and Harvick settled this among themselves, with Hamlin just getting through. As in stage 1, seven of the eight playoff participants in the top 10 crossed the line in stage 2. If Kurt Busch was left out in the first segment, it was Joey Logano in the second.
Race win for Logano – defeat for Harvick
In Stage 3 it wasn’t long before Kevin Harvick regained the lead from the early stages of the race. The handling problems in the meantime were resolved. Meanwhile, it was Denny Hamlin who got into trouble.
Because after a wall contact in the fight for P5 against Gibbs team-mate Kyle Busch (no longer a playoff participant), Hamlin had to go to the pit unplanned under green. In the end he was well served with 15th place after two laps behind.
In the battle for victory, Harvick faced Joey Logano for the last 50 laps. The Penske driver had taken the lead at the last pit stop and then defended it staunchly against Harvick.
Harvick kept doing it until Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman had made the connection. The order did not change because Logano always positioned himself so cleverly in front of Harvick that Harvick could not find a way around.
Behind Logano and Harvick, Bowman was third in front of Keselowski. Chase Elliott in P6 and Martin Truex Jr. in P9 are the only other playoff participants in the top 10 of the race results in the first race of the “Round of 8”.
Best-placed driver among those who are not (no longer) competing for the title: Last year’s champion Kyle Busch in fifth place. Clint Bowyer (Stewart / Haas-Ford), who retired at the end of the season, missed his first home win as a local hero in the 25th and last attempt. In front of a few thousand admitted spectators in the stands, Bowyer had hoped for more than the achieved 26th place when he left the Kansas Speedway on the steering wheel.
Playoff status: Kurt Busch with a huge deficit
In the playoffs, after Logano’s victory, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch are now in the red. While Elliott, Bowman and Truex Jr. all finished in the top 10, but did not collect as many bonus points as Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski in the previous season, Kurt Busch is by far the greatest deficit.
The Ganassi pilot had caught a speeding penalty in the first race segment. The far greater evil, however, overtook him in the last racing segment in the form of a major engine failure. With a gap of 73 points on the “Cut”, Kurt Busch is dependent on a victory à la Las Vegas in order to make it into the four-man final in Phoenix. There are still two races to go before then.
The second race of the “Round of 8” will also take place on a 1.5-mile oval, because next Sunday (October 25th) the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth will take place. The “Round of 8” will end on November 1st on the short track in Martinsville.