Joey Logano Wins South Point 400, Earns Playoff Berth in Championship Four at Phoenix
Joey Logano passed Ross Chastain with three laps to go and then cruised to the victory at the South Point 400 Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, becoming the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to advance to the Championship Four at Phoenix next month.
The two drivers dueled for the lead over the final 13 laps in the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 Playoff race with Logano trying to pass and Chastain blocking his moves. With four to go, Logano took advantage of his fresher tires and picked the low side and managed to get around Chastain. He then pulled away from the Florida Watermelon farmer and took the checkered flag.
It was Logano’s third victory at Las Vegas, his third win of the 2022 season and the 30th victory of his career. This win gives him his fifth opportunity to race for a championship in Phoenix.
“We're racing for a championship! Let's go! Man, what a great car,” Logano shouted after emerging from his car after the race.
“The Penske cars were all fast,” Logano continued. “All of them were really fast today. Oh, man, all you want to do is get to the Championship 4 when the season starts and race for a championship, and we've got the team to do it. I don't see why we can't win at this point. Things are looking really good for us.”
Logano, who had a couple of good restarts late in the race allowed him to move his way up through the field and ultimately challenge for the victory in the final 16 laps.
“What an awesome Pennzoil Mustang,” said Logano, the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion. “This bad boy, and man, just a lot of adversity fought through the last 50 laps or so. I thought we were going to win and then we kind of fell out and then had the tires, and racing Ross was fun. He was doing a good job air-blocking me, and just trying to be patient, and eventually, I was like, I've got to go here. Just great to win out here in Vegas again, and it means so much getting to the championship.”
Chastain tried his best to hold off Logano’s advances, but Logano’s No. 22 Ford had better traction with the new tires.
“It hurts to lose like that with a few laps to go to fresher tires,” Chastain said. “That was all we had, there was a clear difference in tires. Joey did a good job of getting through the field. It’s so good to be driving these Trackhouse Chevys. To keep bringing this kind of speed in the Playoffs, it feels good.”
After a sluggish start to the race that put him down a lap, Chase Briscoe finally found his groove in the final stage and was in the mix at the end but ultimately finished fourth in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
“At the beginning of the race I didn’t think we would even be in contention,” Briscoe said. “Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) does a great job getting our car to drive better by the end and he did that today. I wish we could’ve stayed green before that final caution, I think I would’ve had a chance if we could’ve done that cause we had some good space out there. I still have a shot and feel like Homestead is our favorite track, so I’m looking forward to getting down there. I wish we could’ve got a win today but I feel like I kept us in the ballgame.”
Ryan Blaney led 39 laps in his No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang and appeared to have the car to beat before a late-race single car incident ended his day, resulting in a 28th place finish. With 38 laps to go Blaney’s car got loose and made impact with the wall and careened down the track and impacted the inside wall.
“It stinks to not capitalize on a fast car today,” Blaney said, “but we’ve got two more of them and we’ll see what we can do.”
Bubba Wallace won the opening stage and led 29 laps of the race but early on in the second stage Wallace and Kyle Larson made contact coming off Turn 4, which sent Wallace’s car into the wall. The two cars careened to the low side of the track and made contact again, which sent Larson’s car spinning back up the track into the outside wall, making a big impact on the driver-side of the car. As Larson’s car slid rear-first toward the wall it clipped Playoff contender Christopher Bell’s No. 20 machine, which resulted in a broken toe-link that ended his day.
The drama from the incident reached a fever pitch as Wallace walked from his wrecked car and approached Larson, who was taking off his helmet beside his damaged No. 5 Chevy. Wallace threw his arms up in the air in frustration and shoved the defending champion. Wallace shoved him several times while Larson was trying to hold him off and walk away from the fight.
Wallace was still fuming about the incident when he met with the media outside the LVMS care center. He was asked if their secondary contact was a retaliation move on his part, to which he responded that his car was broke from the earlier impact.
“When you get shoved in the fence, deliberately like he (Kyle Larson) did, trying to force me to lift – the steering was gone, and he just so happened to be there,” Wallace said. “I hate it for our team. We had a super-fast car – not on short run speed, we were kind of falling back there and (Kyle) Larson wanted to make it a three-wide dive bomb. He never cleared me. I don’t lift. I know I’m kind of new to running up front, but I don’t lift. I wasn’t even in a spot to lift, he never lifted either and now we are junk. Piss poor move on his execution.”
Larson accepted responsibility for the initial contact, but not the contact that took both cars out of the race.
“I obviously made an aggressive move into (turn) three; got in low, got loose and chased it up a bit,” Larson said. “He (Bubba Wallace) got to my right front, and it got him tight and into the wall. I knew he was going to retaliate. He had a reason to be mad, but his race wasn’t over until he retaliated. It is what it is. Just aggression turned into frustration and he retaliated.”
Larson was also not surprised that Wallace confronted him in the aftermath of the incident.
“I saw him walking over, so I figured he would do something,” Larson said. “He had every right to be upset. I would rather him do that than tear up our cars in a dangerous manner. It is what it is.”
Among some of the other notable finishers, pole winner Tyler Reddick led 32 laps of the race in his No. 8 Alsco Chevy and finished sixth.
Las Vegas native Kyle Busch was involved in a single car spin early in the race and then saw his left-front wheel come off with 68 laps to go. Despite those two setbacks he still managed to rally and finish third in the race.
“We certainly clawed our way back from a lot,” Busch said. “To begin with, we had a really fast M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD so that certainly helped a lot of things to be able to come back up through the field there a couple times. Had tires there at the end, had a good restart, punched a couple holes and got ourselves in good position there. A good, solid finish, but wish we had a little more obviously, want to win before the year’s out and that would mean a lot to a lot of people. We got a top-10 in points to go get and we’re working on it.”
The race’s other Las Vegas native, Noah Gragson, who was subbing for the injured Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy, posted an 11th place finish after starting 17th.
As the teams head to Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida for the next race in the Round of 8, Logano, Chastain, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin are above the cutline with William Byron, Briscoe, Blaney and Bell anchoring the bottom four.
South Point 400 Results
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.