Joey Logano wins at Las Vegas, will race for Cup Series title next month

AP photo by John Locher / Team Penske driver Joey Logano celebrates after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Logano is the first driver to earn one of the four title-eligible spots in next month's season finale at Phoenix Raceway.

LAS VEGAS — Team Penske has a shot at a second major motorsports championship this year, thanks to Joey Logano and the No. 22 Ford crew's work late in Sunday's NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

With his win, Logano became the first driver to qualify for one of the four championship-eligible spots in the Cup Series season finale next month at Phoenix Raceway.

"We're racing for a championship! Let's go!" Logano screamed to the crowd after his third victory of season and the third of his career at Las Vegas. "All you want to do is get to the championship four 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."

Logano is in NASCAR's final four for the fifth time in his career, which includes his 2018 championship. On Nov. 6 at Phoenix, he'll try to add to the 2022 accolades for Roger Penske, whose organization last month celebrated the IndyCar Series championship when driver Will Power won his second career title on the American open-wheel circuit.

Logano used a late pit stop for tires hoping the new Goodyears would give him a shot. He gained six immediate spots, but he was still eighth on the final restart with 16 laps remaining.

Chase Briscoe restarted as the leader ahead of Justin Haley and Ross Chastain, and Chastain used a sweeping three-wide pass on the bottom of the track to take the lead. Logano charged through the field, but Chastain successfully used several blocks to hold him off.

Logano ultimately pulled alongside Chastain on the front stretch with three laps remaining and beat him to the finish line by .817 second.

"There was a clear difference in tires there, so we fully believed that we could hold him off and win the race on the tires we had, and Joey did a good job of getting through the field," said Chastain, who finished second in a Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing.

Kyle Busch, who was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, finished third in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The top five was filled out by playoff drivers, with Briscoe fourth in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and followed by JGR's Denny Hamlin, who started 31st.

The race was the first of three that will ultimately cut the current playoff field of eight drivers in half, with the next two events at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. A win automatically advances a driver to the next round.

With the stakes so high, the race was fraught with tension from the start and almost included a fight between Bubba Wallace of 23XI and 2021 Cup Series champ Kyle Larson of Hendrick. NASCAR said it will review the incident, which included what appeared to be Wallace deliberately wrecking Larson and Wallace pushing an official, and any penalties would be issued this week.

Asked what message he was trying to send to Larson when he began shoving him, Wallace said: "He knows. He knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing, and he never cleared me."

Their on-track dustup collected JGR's Christopher Bell, who won a week earlier on the Roval course at Charlotte Motor Speedway to advance into this round of the playoffs but is now last in the standings after his 34th-place finish.

"We will see if we can go pull another rabbit out of the hat," Bell said.

Joining Bell below the cut line for elimination were William Byron of Hendrick, Briscoe and Penske's Ryan Blaney, who led for 39 laps but hit the wall with what appeared to be a tire failure. He finished 28th, seven laps down.

Logano is locked in, and Chastain, Hamlin and regular-season champion Chase Elliott of Hendrick, who finished 21st, are above the cut line.

"I did a really bad job all weekend," said Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champ. "All-around poor effort on my behalf, and when you perform that poorly, you get poor results. I'm obviously missing something at places like this to compete with the gentlemen that know what they're doing."