Bubba Wallace Getty NASCAR Cup Series
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Joey Logano is used to being overlooked. The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion won his only title in a year his three main rivals combined to win 20 of 36 races.

At Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday, he wasn't even the race's big story -- invisible the second Bubba Wallace turned hard left into Kyle Larson's Chevrolet.

But once the smoke clears this week, people will see the 32-year-old Team Penske veteran was sitting at victory lane in Vegas, the first driver from the Round of 8 to advance to the Phoenix finale.

"We're racing for a championship!" the mild-mannered Logano said exiting his car, firing up the crowd. "Let's go!"

It was a team effort to get there, Logano's crew chief Paul Wolfe picking the right strategy during a caution with 25 laps remaining. At that point, Logano was ninth, pushed back into traffic with a bad pit stop after finishing second in both stages.

Moments later, he restarted 13th, the first car armed with fresh Goodyears.

"I felt like tires meant something today," Wolfe explained. "I thought that was a pretty good tradeoff."

Logano took it from there, making the gamble work with hard, clean racing to plow through the field and track down leader Ross Chastain. The two fought tooth-and-nail in one of the best battles out front all season, notable for both cars emerging without a scratch despite an automatic bid for the championship at stake.

"My thoughts were," Logano explained, "I need to make sure I am 100 percent positive that when I break the plane of [Chastain's] bumper, I am going to pass him. And don't give him a chance to door bang me down the straightaways or do anything, because I knew what was on the line.

"People are willing to do a lot of things when they're desperate."

Many other competitors would have been paranoid around Chastain, who has a history of angering veterans like Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. this year with his on-track mistakes. Instead, Logano praised his rival, both sides acknowledging a healthy degree of respect for one another.

"I hope I'm racing that guy in the Cup Series for wins for a long time to come," Chastain said. "It's going to be a fun career if that's the case."

Logano was the one having all the fun this time, locking down a Championship 4 spot at the same time he did so at Martinsville back during his 2018 title run. It's an important advantage, two extra weeks to focus on the title race knowing he's already qualified.

No doubt, teams and drivers will now be giving Logano a closer look. Without the postseason, he would be ranked second in the standings to Chase Elliott and his three wins are now tied for second best this year. A fourth final four appearance in the last seven seasons, all in even-numbered years, leave Logano in rarified NASCAR air.

"This is what it's all about," he explained. "I can't help but get excited … to have the moment to do something big and really change the outcome of your season. There's no better feeling than that."

Traffic Report

Green: Chase Briscoe. It's been an incredible two weeks for Briscoe after squeaking into the Round of 8 during the final laps at Charlotte. On Sunday, he spent much of this race simply trying to stay on the lead lap, needing the free pass at one point before figuring it out during the final stage and clawing forward. A fourth-place finish is his fourth straight top 10 during these playoffs; consider Briscoe had just four top 10s during the entire 26-race regular season. Truly remarkable stuff.

Yellow: Ross Chastain. Chastain dusted off an awful Charlotte for Trackhouse Racing Team and spent much of this race out front, leading the most laps for the second straight Vegas race (68). Here's the problem: a runner-up finish doesn't lock him in the Championship 4 during a round where wins are often needed to advance. "It's a really, really good kind of hurt," he said afterward. "But it hurts."

Red: Hendrick Motorsports. Four drivers and not a single top-10 finish in Vegas? Not a performance you often see from an organization with a New York Yankees-level track record. Chase Elliott's struggle to 21st was particularly alarming, his fourth result of 20th or worse during a postseason filled with inconsistency.

Speeding Ticket: NASCAR and team orders. So much was made of NASCAR's 50-point deduction and $100,000 fine of Cole Custer and Stewart-Haas Racing this week for "manipulating the finish" in Charlotte's Round of 12 finale. Now, eyes have to be trained on Team Penske and Ryan Blaney.

A race-long contender, Blaney hit the wall late in Vegas and needed extensive time on pit road to fix the damage, finishing seven laps down in 28th place. He emerged on the same lap as teammate Austin Cindric, also damaged from an earlier incident, but Cindric finished a position behind Blaney in 29th.

Will that point make the difference in the championship? Was Cindric unable to catch Blaney or intentionally staying behind him, losing an additional lap? Penske radioed and specifically informed Cindric the position that his teammate was in.

Either way, NASCAR has set a new precedent that every little "assist" from drivers on the same team must be scrutinized in order to play fair across the board. It's a slippery slope.


Here's the incident NASCAR nation is buzzing about. On lap 95, stage one winner Bubba Wallace was racing Kyle Larson hard for position. Larson got aggressive, diving down to the inside of turn 3 before sliding up in a move that pushed Wallace's No. 45 toward the outside wall.

Seconds later, Wallace's Toyota swung hard into Larson's No. 5, a hard crash which also took out a championship contender (Christopher Bell) as collateral damage.

Wallace, still angry, then got out of his used-up machine, approached Larson and shoved him repeatedly until the drivers were separated.

Was the contact intentional? Wallace claimed the "steering was gone" claiming Larson "just happened to be there." But the video evidence seems to indicate otherwise.

"Knew he was going to retaliate," Larson said. "He had a reason to be mad. But his race wasn't over until he retaliated… just aggression turned into frustration."

The big question is what NASCAR does about it from here, especially with controversy swirling the past month over safety in the Next Gen car. Three drivers sat Charlotte out with injuries and Kurt Busch announced Saturday he's stepping away from the sport full-time following a lengthy battle with a concussion suffered at Pocono Raceway in July.

Officials – and other drivers, for that matter – can't let contact like that stand while saying this car is inherently dangerous. Will a suspension for Wallace be in the cards?