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Logano takes Texas, becomes Chase contender

April 07, 2014, Staff report,

Team Penske driver passes Gordon on last lap, becomes seventh winner in seven races

Joey Logano became the latest contender in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by winning the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in a thrilling finish on Monday.

For the first time in 11 years, seven different drivers have won the first seven races of the season.

Logano led a race-high 108 of the 340 laps. He was in control late and looked like he would cruise to victory when a caution was issued on Lap 334.

Jeff Gordon started first in the green-white-checkered restart, but Logano passed him on the last lap and beat him by nearly a half-second (.476).

Gordon placed second, followed by Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and rookie Kyle Larson.

Gordon, a four-time series champion, has taken over the Sprint Cup Series points lead with 259 points. Matt Kenseth is second (255), while Carl Edwards (247), Logano (235) and Kyle Busch (231) round out the top five.

Brad Keselowski was hit hardest by Monday's late restart. Keselowski was running second when the final caution came out, but he was penalized for speeding off pit road and finished 15th. Keselowski qualified second and led 85 laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who went to Texas with the points lead, hit the wall on the 14th lap and caught fire. He finished last (43rd) and is now tied for sixth in the points standings.

Earnhardt Jr.'s early exit impacted Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who was running behind him at the time. Johnson suffered windshield and front-end damage from the debris but remained in the race. Johnson finished 25th, two laps down, and is now tied with Earnhardt Jr. for sixth place.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Phoenix, led a lap at Texas and was running with the lead pack when he blew his engine. Harvick completed 28 laps and placed 42nd.

Logano joins the Busch brothers, Keselowski, Harvick, Earnhardt Jr. and Edwards as winners of Sprint Cup Series races this season.

If any of those seven drivers win at least one more time this season, they would be guaranteed a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Drivers with one win through the first 26 races must rank among the top 30 in the points standings to qualify for the Chase.

Kurt Busch, who won the previous week at Martinsville, was the reason for the final caution (blown tire) and placed 39th. He's now 25th in the points standings and Harvick is 26th.

After the seventh race of NASCAR's regular season, here is how the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings look:

Pos. Driver Chase berth
1. Carl Edwards
Winner: Bristol
2. Joey Logano
Winner: Texas
3. Kyle Busch
Winner: Fontana
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Winner: Daytona
5. Brad Keselowski
Winner: Las Vegas
6. Kurt Busch
Winner: Martinsville
7. Kevin Harvick Winner: Phoenix
8. Jeff Gordon
Points leader
9. Matt Kenseth
2nd in points
10. Jimmie Johnson
7th in points
11. Brian Vickers
9th in points
12. Paul Menard
10th in points
13. Ryan Newman
11th in points
14. Austin Dillon
12th in points
15. Denny Hamlin
13th in points
16. Tony Stewart
14th in points


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