Although things were much different this time last year for the No. 22, Joey Logano still managed to find himself in a familiar place on Sunday - Talladega Victory Lane. Logano dominated the Round of 12 in 2015, sweeping all three races and establishing himself as the front-runner for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Fast forward 12 months and the No. 22 was battling to simply advance. Logano managed to surge ahead on the Lap 191 restart and pull out an overtime win to repeat as the Hellmann's 500 champion. “I feel good,” he said after the race. “...it was going to be tough after what happened in Charlotte, so to be able to recover and win in a clutch moment like this to move us on feels really, really good.”
While their regular season dominance may not have yet shown itself in the Chase, Joe Gibbs Racing's quartet of Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth still found a way to show why they're the team to beat. All four drivers have advanced to the next round of the Chase, without a single Chase win between them, thanks to some cautious race tactics at Talladega. “It’s a playoff and you’ve got to say what is smart and so you certainly don’t want to make a big mistakes of some kind and cost your sponsor and everybody that’s wrapped into this,” said team owner Joe Gibbs about the team's defensive strategy.
Early today, NASCAR announced rules that will limit how many XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races full-time Sprint Cup drivers can race in 2017. Drivers with more than five years of full-time Cup experience will be limited to maximum of 10 XFINITY and seven Camping World Truck Series contests beginning in 2017. Additionally, those drivers will also be held from competing in both Series' finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway and any XFINITY Dash for Cash races. “The updated guidelines will elevate the stature of our future stars, while also providing them the opportunity to compete against the best in professional motorsports,” said NASCAR Senior VP of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy.
NASCAR Returns to the Commonwealth
The eight drivers who survived Talladega with championship dreams intact now turn their attention to Martinsville and the only short track in the Chase. Could this be where one of the JGR Toyotas, who've led 1,545 of the 3,307 laps raced on short tracks this year, captures its first playoff win? Hometown Hamlin was the last one to visit Victory Lane, winning the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, and has five wins at the half-mile track. Teammate Kyle Busch also won at Martinsville in April, but it's Hendrick's Jimmie Johnson who has seen the most success in Southwest Virginia (eight wins, 23 top-10's in 29 races).