NASCAR Barometer: Logano Advances with Kansas Win

NASCAR Barometer: Logano Advances with Kansas Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Joey Logano wheeled his No. 22 Ford to another Chase win on Sunday at Kansas Speedway leading twice as many laps as his closest competitor. Penske Racing has won three of the four Chase races so far, rapidly making themselves favorites to claim this year's Sprint Cup championship. With Sunday's win Logano advances to the next round of the Chase where he will face off with the other seven remaining championship contenders.

Sunday's race saw a number of Chase contenders suffer problems, which will make the next two races in the Contender round all the more exciting. Blown tires were a problem for many teams, taking out drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, who appeared poised to have solid afternoons before trouble hit. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman were drivers that capitalized on those issues, and now find themselves in optimal position to advance to the next round of Chase eliminations. Before the green flag waved on Sunday the Kansas track hinted that it might throw a curveball at the field, and the race's events did not disappoint.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano - Logano celebrated another victory in the Chase by leading the most laps in Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway. The Penske Racing driver drove a perfect race, avoiding the trouble that befell a number of other Chase contenders. He led 122 laps to complete his third win in the last seven races, and reiterate his intention to win this season's championship. Penske Racing appears to be the team with one hand on the trophy, and Logano is the one of their pair of drivers that is flexing his muscle and getting the upper hand in the garage. Logano credited his car's setup and team's execution of strategy to overcome falling in the running order for his victory on Sunday.

Kyle Larson -
After finishing 12th at Kansas Speedway earlier this season Larson found himself racing in the top five on Sunday. The young rookie put together consistent practices, but started deeper in the field than most fantasy players would have liked. The rookie confidently worked his way forward, though, making a spoiler out of himself with another top run in the Chase. He continues to turn in top-5 performances, claiming the second position in Sunday's race, and is definitely a driver on the cusp of making the breakthrough for a victory. He is looking forward to next week's Charlotte race where he has a best finish of 18th, but is another 1.5-mile oval where he has been strong this season.

Kyle Busch -
Has Busch finally gotten the monkey off of his back at Kansas Speedway? The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won Saturday's Nationwide Series race at the track, and then backed up that performance with his best ever Kansas finish in Sprint Cup, a third-place run on Sunday. Prior to Sunday's race Busch had never even scored a top-5 at Kansas, a dry stretch that lasted 14 starts. He has experienced some Nationwide success at the track, but crashed out of three of his prior four Sprint Cup starts there. Busch will be flying high with confidence after Sunday's race, which might make next week's outing at Charlotte a good opportunity for fantasy players to select him for their rosters.

Martin Truex Jr. -
Truex pieced together a top effort in Kansas on Sunday to score his second top-10 in as many races, and his first top-5 finish of the 2014 season. Kansas was expected to give Truex an opportunity to outperform his 2014 record, and he did just that. The No. 78 was solidly among the top runners nearly all afternoon, which is great news from a team that has been looking to capitalize on opportunities all season. Unfortunately, Truex has yet to score a top-5 at Charlotte, and brings an average finish of 18.7 from 18 starts to next week's race. If the past two weeks are a trend this team could be in store to help their driver to another top-10 finish next week.

DOWNGRADE

Jimmie Johnson - Looking to rebound and start the next round of the Chase on the right foot didn't work out too well for Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was spun coming out of turn 2 on Sunday, sliding into the inside wall and out of contention. It was the worst possible start for the team that already has questions surrounding their ability to win the championship this season. Sunday's result was a terrible blow to his start to the Contender round of the Chase, but he can look forward to Charlotte next week where he has seven previous wins. Johnson's average Charlotte finish is 11.2 from 26 starts, and he'll need a good result next week to keep his championship hopes alive.

Greg Biffle -
After turning in solid practice times and earning a decent starting position Biffle faltered during Sunday's race. He was knocked out of the Chase in New Hampshire, and fantasy players were hoping for a better performance now that the championship pressure has been lifted. Instead, Biffle misjudged the exit of a turn and collected Johnson in a backstretch wreck. A blown tire later in the race effectively ended Biffle's hopes to salvage anything from the day. The No. 16 had a good Kansas record, so the poor result could be considered a lost opportunity. Biffle has never won at Charlotte, and only claims five top-5 finishes from 23 starts at the track. His average finish there is 17.2.

Aric Almirola -
With a solid qualifying effort and decent practice times much was expected of Almirola last weekend. Unfortunately, the No. 43 made it just past 100 laps before he lost power and was coasting around the track. Kansas was one of Almirola's best tracks, but he wasn't able to convert that past success into a result last week. After being knocked out of the Chase in New Hampshire this team was free to relax and try to continue fighting for the fifth-place position in the points. That effort suffered as a result of last week's failure. Prospects this coming week don't appear any better for this team either since Almirola has yet to score a top-10 finish in any of his visits to Charlotte.

Brad Keselowski -
Keselowski was another of the Chase's heavy hitters to suffer a tire failure and connect with the outside wall on Sunday. The driver had been in command of the series recently, but suffered heavy impact with that failure, putting a large dent in his effort to collect a decent finish Sunday. The team attempted to make repairs on pit road, but was only able to salvage a finish of 36th when all was said and done. Keselowski, a former Charlotte winner, still has two chances to overcome his Kansas trouble and advance in the Chase. His average Charlotte finish of 15.7 masks the fact that he has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes at the track heading into next week's race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -
Last Sunday appeared to be a turn of form for Earnhardt. Good practice efforts, decent qualifying, and even a move to the lead of the race weren't enough to see Earnhardt through the week unscathed, though. The No. 88 suffered a tire failure just over halfway through the race, forcing the car hard into the outside wall and into the garage for repairs. The team hasn't performed well the past few races, but appeared to have turned a corner until Sunday's trouble bit them. At Charlotte the veteran has five top-5s and 11 top-10s from 29 career starts. Earnhardt has a big hole to dig out of in the championship, but a win at Charlotte or Talladega would see him safely advance to the next round.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Austin Dillon - Dillon gets the weekly "biggest surprise" nod for the second week in a row with Sunday's effort at Kansas. However, this week the honor is for a job well done. The No. 3's performances in the second half of the year have not been as good as the first half. However, last week the rookie Richard Childress Racing driver took a 16th-place starting position and turned it into a top-10 finish. His eighth-place result on Sunday was his best finish since scoring a top-5 at Daytona International Speedway in July. He still lags behind Larson in the battle of the rookies, but more finishes like last week's will go a long way to bolster his confidence.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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