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Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano enter precarious Sprint Cup playoff bubble

Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, is on the verge of elimination from this year’s playoff.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

NASCAR’s traveling road show collects and throws out Chase postseason contestants weekly and indiscriminately.

Tag, Kevin Harvick. You’re it.

The 2014 Cup champion is in a precarious pickle — along with another Cup stalwart, Joey Logano — after technical difficulties at Charlotte on Sunday in the weather-delayed Bank of America 500.

Harvick lost power in his No. 4 Chevy and finished just 155 laps. Logano bumped the wall along Turn 2, resulting in extensive damage to his Ford. Logano finished 80 laps behind race winner Jimmie Johnson. The incident also damaged the hopes of Logano’s championship aspirations.

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Logano is six points behind the cutoff slot with two races to go in the second round, and Harvick is eight points out. They obviously have some catching up to do before the field of 12 gets whittled down to eight after Talladega in two weeks.

“I hate it for everybody on our Busch team. They made some great adjustments today and got our car back where we needed to be to run up front and everything was going fine,” Harvick said after the failure on Sunday. “Lots of things can go wrong, and today they did.”

It was a double-whammy because Harvick had a solid car and had grabbed the pole for race.

But such is the deal everyone makes with the Chase devil. One bad twist or turn, and it’s over in a heartbeat. The good news for Harvick and Logano is that they have Kansas and Talladega coming up. A victory in either places locks them into the elite eight.

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Harvick has a victory at both tracks, most recently winning in Kansas in the fall of 2013.

He also knows how to get it done under dire circumstances, scoring a must-win at Dover last year to advance in the Chase. He did the same this year by winning at New Hampshire.

But Talladega and its restrictor-plate mayhem is always a more dicey beast than most other tracks. You’re cruising along at top speed on one lap, flying through the air on the other. The Big One. Boom! You’re done. Kansas offers the most viable option when it comes to predictability.

Logano, one of the most dominant drivers in 2015 with six victories and a winner at Michigan International Speedway this season, is also in a bind.

But he’s been a cool cat when things are tough, He won three straight races in last year’s Chase, starting with the race at Charlotte, before Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked him at Martinsville in their infamous tit-for-tat payback deal.

As for now … cue optimism.

“We’re not out by any means,” Logano said. “Things happen. It’s part of racing, but we’re not out. We’re not gonna die. This team is resilient. We’ve proved it before and we’ll just have to go out and prove it again. We just have to have two flawless races. It’s something we can make up.”

Tick, tick. No time to waste. Onto Kansas we go. 

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Johnson in victory lane

Welcome back, Six-Time.

Where were you? Sorry. We know that answer.

Jimmie Johnson was struggling most of the season. He and the No. 48 Lowe’s team were making uncharacteristic mistakes along pit road and elsewhere. It seemed like another failed run at a seventh Cup title.

No more.

Johnson scored a dominating victory at Charlotte on Sunday, breaking a winless streak at 24 races. That accomplishment was highlighted by the fact that he has led the most laps in the Chase so far.

“Well, yeah, nobody has to remind me that we hadn’t won a race,” team owner Rick Hendrick said after Sunday’s race. “You guys remind me of that every weekend, and they do on TV. I think we were washed up and should have quit. But it kind of motivated us, and you know, Jimmie just lacked speed through the middle part and early part of the year. Just had to work really hard to gain it back.”

It’s back. And so is Jimmie.

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Daytona track OK

You may have been shocked by pictures of flooding at Daytona International Speedway a few days ago, remnants of Hurricane Matthew.

Not to worry. Those images were from 2009, said track officials in a statement:

The track “experienced moderate damage from Hurricane Matthew with impacts to lights, speakers, signage, fences, gates, awnings and palm trees ... Pictures of a past weather event at Daytona International Speedway have been circulating on social media during the storm. Those pictures are from a weather event in 2009. There was no flood damage to the facility from Hurricane Matthew.

“We are working with local, regional and state officials on recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew. Daytona International Speedway is once again serving as a staging site for Florida Power & Light crews. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted by this weather system.”

Stewart legal update

Litigation issues have yet to be resolved for the tragic incident resulting in the death of 20-year-old sprint-car driver Kevin Ward Jr. in August 2014. Some depositions are still to be taken before a trial is set for the wrongful-death case brought by his parents against Tony Stewart. And that won’t happen until the summer of 2017, at least.

The deadline for motions asking the judge to rule on the case before trial was been moved back from Feb. 8 to May 31 during a recent status conference in federal court in Utica, N.Y.

Stewart has said that he did not see Ward Jr. until just before Stewart’s sprint car struck him in a race after Ward Jr. had scrambled out of the car, upset about an incident with Stewart on the previous lap.


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