CONCORD, N.C. – If stealing a race were against the law, there would be an arrest warrant out for Joey Logano on Sunday night.
Grabbing the lead from Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 183 of 200, Logano held off a charging Elliott Sadler by .462 seconds to win the Drive for the Cure 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the event that trimmed the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Chase field from 12 drivers to eight.
Larson, who led 165 laps and at one point had the lead lap to himself, closed on Logano with three circuits left but brushed the Turn 2 wall on Lap 197 and fell to fourth at the finish behind Sadler and Daniel Suarez.
“We had a good car – maybe not the best car… but the pit crew did their job to keep us in position to make an awesome restart there at the end,” said Logano, who led the final 12 laps in earning the 27th NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of his career. “It was kind of an all-or-nothing move, to be able to get the lead and ultimately to hold him off and get the checkered flag. It was a lot of fun to be able to do that.”
Both Sadler and Suarez had earned spots in the Chase’s Round of 8 by virtue of victories at Kentucky and Dover, respectively. Erik Jones advanced with a fifth-place finish and will join Justin Allgaier (sixth on Sunday), Blake Koch (12th), Brendan Gaughan (13th), Ryan Reed (15th) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (20th) in the Round of 8.
Eliminated on points were Ryan Sieg (10th), Ty Dillon (11th), Brandon Jones (16th) and Brennan Poole (18th).
Dillon, whose Chase started to go awry in a wreck with Erik Jones at Kentucky in the opening race of the Round of 12, was bitterly disappointed by his failure to advance.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Dillon. “We’re a team that should have been in the final round. You’ve got to expect things to happen, which happened in the first race at Kentucky… But you‘ve got to be able to rebound if you’re going to win a championship.
“We had so much momentum coming off of Dover (where we had) a car capable of winning the race, but today we couldn’t even stay on the lead lap. It’s very upsetting. I’ve wanted this championship so bad – it just hurts.”
Dillon needed one more point to tie for eighth with Wallace, but he couldn’t catch Sieg, who pitted for fresh tires under the final caution for Dakoda Armstrong’s spin off Turn 4 on Lap 183. Dillon would have won the tiebreaker for the final spot in the Round of 8 based on his runner-up finish at Dover.
Sadler characterized Koch’s success with start-up Kaulig Racing as “the biggest story of the first round.” Koch finished the Round of 12 seventh in the standings, three points clear of Dillon.
Poole had a top-10 car for much of the afternoon, but an electrical issue forced him to the pits for an unscheduled stop on Lap 123, and he lost four laps in the process. He finished the round in 10th place, five points behind Wallace.
The series leader entering the Chase, Erik Jones had disappointing outings at Kentucky and Dover but transferred into the Round of 8 by six points with his fifth-place finish on Sunday.
“We did what we needed to do today and got into the next round, you know?” Jones said. “Just ran a smart race, stayed up front all day, stayed out of trouble – only had one mistake that got us back a little bit, but got a caution right away – got a lucky break and finished where we needed to.
“I think we had a car that probably could have went up and contended with Kyle (Larson), but we were just taking it pretty easy for the most part and doing what we needed to do today.”