Title hopes get dented for Elliott and Logano

Crew members check Joey Logano’s car after only completing pace laps at the start of Sunday’s race in Dover, which sent him to the garage for repairs. Special to the Delaware State News / Chuck Snyder

DOVER — The Monster Mile took a bite out of the title hopes of several Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers on Sunday.

And it started before the green flag even dropped.

Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney each had issues during Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway. All three are now below the cut-line to advance to the next round of the NASCAR playoffs.

Logano’s trouble began under the pace laps as the field was warming up prior to the beginning of the race.

He broke an axle and had to head to the garage as the rest of the field took the green flag. The No. 22 team was able to fix the problem, but not before Logano was 24 laps down.

Logano finished the race in 34th place, 25 laps behind the race-winner Kyle Larson.

“Not a fun feeling to have something like that happen before the race but it is what it is,” Logano said. “What are you gonna do? We were able to fix it and get back out there and grab as many points as possible.”

Joey Logano relaxes before the race. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Despite the issues, Logano is only in ninth place in the Cup Series playoff standings. He is tied with Will Byron for the eighth and final transfer spot to the next round but Byron has the tiebreaker.

Logano’s successful season before Sunday was able to soften the blow.

“We just used our mulligan up,” Logano said. “We had a pretty good cushion when it came to playoff points accumulated during the season and we used the all today. So now we got two good racetracks and we got to be perfect.”

Logano, the defending series champion, said Talladega and Kansas, the final two tracks in the Round of 12, are two of his best tracks.
He thinks he still has a shot to advance even if he does not record a victory.

“It’s not a must-win,” Logano said. “But we must do very good.”

Elliott’s problems came very soon after Logano’s. His No. 9 car blew an engine on the eighth lap of the race. It sent him to the garage where the team was unable to get the car back up and running.

Elliott finished in last place.

“Yeah I just had an engine failure of some sort,” Elliott said. “Unfortunately, we don’t really know what it was just yet. It just quit running. It didn’t really seem like anything was off. We were just kind of making laps and then obviously had a failure. It’s an unfortunate way to start this round for sure.”

Elliott is now in 11th place in the point standings, seven points back of Byron for that eighth position.

Blaney’s trouble began on lap No. 298.

His No. 12 puffed smoke out of the rear while he was heading into the first turn. He guided it to pit road where he discovered his brakes no longer worked.

The team directed him to the garage after a short stay in the pits.

Blaney settled for a 35th-place finish, one spot behind his Penske Racing teammate Logano.

The issues left Blaney in 12th in the standings. He is 22 spots behind Byron for eighth.

Two other playoff drivers also found trouble but were able to salvage the day.

Kyle Busch was caught speeding on pit road on the 122nd lap of the race. Busch rallied and finished in sixth, one of only eight cars to end the race on the lead lap.

He is still in position to advance to the next round. Busch is tied with Denny Hamlin for third place in the standings and is 48 points clear of elimination.

Byron also sped on pit road but he could not find his way back onto the lead lap and settled for a 13th place finish. He holds the tiebreaker for the eighth spot in the standings over Logano and is four points clear of Clint Bowyer.

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