Logano already in Eliminator Round; Kes wins his way in RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Brad Keselowski 's chances of advancing to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup appeared to take a hit when he was involved in a Lap 59 wreck that brought out the first caution of the day during Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . But the 2012 Sprint Cup champion serged late on the second of two green-white-checkered finish attempts to win the GEICO 500 and race his way into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Keselowski was running with the lead pack when Jamie McMurray suffered a cut left-rear tire that ignited a chain reaction. McMurray got into Keselowski and Michael McDowell , and sent Keselowski's Team Penske teammate Joey Logano spinning into the infield. Keselowski suffered minor damage and took four tires in the ensuing pit stop, and his crew took a long look at his damage. Logano fell a lap back at the time but already advanced to the Eliminator Round after winning at Kansas. He finished the race in 11th place. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
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Both drivers fined, placed on four-race probation RELATED: Full coverage/timeline of Charlotte incident DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 14, 2014) -- NASCAR has assessed behavioral penalties to drivers Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart for their involvement in post-race incidents on Oct. 11 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Keselowski has been fined $50,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events through Nov. 12 for violating: • Section 12-1 : Actions detrimental to stock car racing • Section 12-4.9 : Behavioral penalty -- involved in post-race incidents Stewart has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events through Nov. 12 for violating: • Section 12-1 : Actions detrimental to stock car racing • Section 12-4.9 : Behavioral penalty -- involved in a post-race incident "These penalties are about maintaining a safe environment following the race," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR senior vice president, competition and racing development. "We knew that the new Chase format was likely going to raise the intensity level and we want our drivers to continue to be themselves. However, the safety of our drivers, crew members, officials, and workers is paramount and we will react when that safety could be compromised." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Team Penske uses Logano's locked-in status to its advantage RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- As cars whipped around Talladega Superspeedway in the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Brad Keselowski had teammate Joey Logano just behind him. Logano threw a block to stave off a charging Kevin Harvick , keeping Keselowski out front in his battle with Ryan Newman . After his win at Kansas Speedway , Logano was a lock to advance into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. His teammate, however, needed a win to continue on after two poor performances at Kansas and Charlotte. Team Penske owner Roger Penske made Logano's obligations clear. "It's pretty simple," Penske said. "With the structure of the Chase, he was already committed into the next round, so we sat down with he and Brad and (Ryan) Blaney and said, 'Whatever you can do today to help the 2 car get in the winner's circle, that's what you have to do.' And I think he obeyed orders pretty well." Not every team had that luxury. Hendrick Motorsports had all four drivers winless and battling to make the next round: Jeff Gordon , Kasey Kahne , Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Only Gordon advanced to the next round. There was little teamwork between the Hendrick drivers; no pushes to the front or blocks to keep a teammate into the lead. Earnhardt and Johnson both needed a win to move on, and often found themselves battling each other for the lead. "(The Penske) situation for teammates worked out pretty nice, because Joey was locked in," Johnson said. "My situation with the 88, who I ran around a lot -- I had to win. I had to beat him in order to transfer, so it was more of a competition than thinking, 'Hey, there's my buddy, there's my teammate. Let's race.' " The Joe Gibbs Racing group was in a similar position. None of the team's cars had clinched advancement into the next round. Kyle Busch appeared to have the biggest buffer, coming into Talladega second in the points standings, six points away from Logano. Denny Hamlin was just above the cutoff in seventh, while Matt Kenseth was in ninth place, the first elimination position. Each driver was on a different strategy. Hamlin and Kenseth advanced to the Eliminator Round, while a wreck runied Busch's day and saw him finish on the wrong side of the Chase cut line. "(I) hate lagging in the back, but couldn't afford to have what happened to the 18 happen to us and take our chances out," Hamlin said of his 18th-place finish. "Still proud of our effort and happy that we made it." Kevin Harvick was able to take chances for Stewart-Haas Racing , but is the only remaining driver on the four-car team's roster still in competition for a title this year. Part of his effort went toward helping Kurt Busch , who was eliminated after the first round of the Chase, to a seventh-place finish. "I felt like on the last restart that Bowyer was going to be our catalyst, but it ended up he didn’t stay attached to our rear bumper, so I couldn't get to Newman in time and that outside groove was going," Busch said. "So, I had to get to the middle to salvage what I could, and that was seventh. I just have to thank Kevin Harvick for being a great teammate all day today." Getting that push when it mattered prove to be a win-or-go-home moment. Johnson said he knew he was "in trouble" when, after a late restart, he moved to a new line and had nobody behind him. Keselowski, on the other hand, had that push. Their points reset to level the playing field at 4,000 points coming into the Eliminator Round, so neither Penske driver will have the benefit of a locked-in teammate ready to throw a block at Martinsville Speedway . For Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing, both with only one car remaining in title contention, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick , teammates will be at the ready. "Moving forward, Jeff and Kasey and Junior have always been amazing team players for me on my championship runs," Johnson said. "And I'll do my best to help them." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Team Penske driver holds off hard-charging Newman for sixth win of season MORE: Full race results " Updated series standings RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala.-- In a must-win situation at Talladega Superspeedway , Brad Keselowski did exactly that, preserving his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship hopes with a victory in Sunday’s GEICO 500 . With the right side of his car damaged in the wreck that brought out the first caution flag of the afternoon, Keselowski persevered, taking the lead during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish and winning the race in the second overtime—after a wreck that ended the title run of Keselowski's former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr . "I can't believe it," Keselowski said in Victory Lane. "Talladega is such a wild card, and to be able to win here you have to catch breaks and make your own breaks-a little of both. "I can't believe we won at Talladega. This race is the scariest of the three in the (Contender Round) bracket. To be able to win here is really a privilege. It really is." Keselowski won his series-leading sixth race of the season, his third at Talladega and the 16th of his career. That alone propelled him into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on a day that saw three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers—Earnhardt, Kasey Kahne and six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson —fall by the wayside. On the first lap of the first overtime, Keselowski's Team Penske teammate gave the No. 2 Ford the push that enabled him to clear Ryan Newman and take the lead. "We just persevered," Keselowski said. "We didn't give up. I got a lot of help from my teammate Joey Logano and, wow, this is just special. Everything about today is special. I want to say 'Thank you' to everyone that supports our team." A week after losing his cool on the race track and on pit road at Charlotte, Keselowski was the very model of professional poise at Talladega. Coincidentally, the driver with whom Keselowski had the most significant altercation at Charlotte— Matt Kenseth --was behind him on the final restart at Talladega, and at the finish line. And, coincidentally, both Keselowski and Kenseth, the race runner-up, started the race at the rear of the field, Keselowski after breaking an alternator and Kenseth after changing an engine. Kenseth, Newman (fifth Sunday), Denny Hamlin (18th), Jeff Gordon (26th) and Carl Edwards (21st) joined Contender Round winners Logano, Kevin Harvick and Keselowski in the Eliminator Round, which opens next Sunday at Martinsville, (Va.) Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) with points for all the Chase drivers reset to 4,000. Newman was later found to have failed post-race inspection due to his car being too low in the rear onboth sides. The No. 31 Chevrolet will be taken to NASCAR's R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina for further review. Kyle Busch , victim of an early wreck, joined Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne as drivers knocked out of the Chase. Johnson, who led a race-high 84 laps, was shuffled back after a restart on Lap 188, the first attempt at a green-white-checkered following a debris caution on Lap 184. In the second overtime, which took the race six circuits past its scheduled 188 laps, he fell back to 24th at the finish. But Johnson's finishing position was of little consequence, once victory was out of the question. Like Keselowski and Earnhardt, Johnson came to Talladega needing a win to move forward in the Chase. After a wild shuffling of positions in the two overtimes, Clint Bowyer finished third, followed by Landon Cassill (first career top five in 147 starts) and Newman. Travis Kvapil , Kurt Busch , Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10. At Talladega, there are always victims, and Kyle Busch was the first. On the backstretch on Lap 103, Aric Almirola tapped the back bumper of J.J. Yeley's Toyota and turned the car sideways into the outside wall, igniting a 10-car chain-reaction wreck. Riding 28th near the rear of the field, Busch checked up and appeared poised to avoid the melee, only to be launched into the inside wall by Austin Dillon 's Chevrolet. With the frame of the No. 18 Toyota bent like a pretzel and suspension parts askew on both ends, Busch brought the car to the garage and dropped to 43rd on the scoring monitor as his team frantically tried to restore the Camry to running condition. "We were just all starting to shuffle around there and getting ready to pit, and I think it was the 83 (Yeley) in front of me, and I think he might have been trying to check up to get to the bottom," Almirola said of the incident that started the wreck. "I just barely started to push him and it hooked his car—and we all wrecked." Earnhardt's run at a first championship came to a sudden end on the backstretch on Lap 188, when contact from Greg Biffle 's Ford spun the No. 88 Chevy, which had spent 31 laps in the lead, but restarted 16th on the first green-white-checkered attempt. With the car damaged in the wreck, Earnhardt finished 31st, a far cry from the victory he needed to advance to the next round of the Chase. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Brad Keselowski talks through the ups and downs of the race as he wins his way into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Six-time champion falls short of advancement despite leading 84 laps RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Jimmie Johnson knew he was a long shot coming into Talladega Superspeedway , but after leading for a race-high 84 laps, it looked like the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion could be able to pull off something extraordinary to stay on the path to his seventh title. He found himself behind Brad Keselowski late in the race, and had to make a quick decision on how to propel himself to the front. "I had such a strong car, I had a chance," Johnson said. "I was sitting in the second row outside, and I was just left with the decision to help the (No.) 2 and see if I could find a way by or try to make quick work of the 2 and go on, and I chose to try to make quick work of the 2, and as I got to his outside and pulled up alongside of him I looked up in the mirror and there was nobody back there helping. So I knew at that moment I was in trouble." That decision led to a 24th-place finish for Johnson, leaving him 11th in the standings and eliminating him from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. And with six titles to his name, Johnson knows what it takes to earn one -- and he didn't think his team had it. "I showed up this weekend thinking I was playing with house money and kind of a very unique opportunity to advance," Johnson said. "In any Chase, after two bad races like we had in the last two weeks you wouldn't have a shot at the championship." After qualifying on the front row in a new format that left many drivers baffled, Johnson's No. 48 looked to be the car to beat. The often-unpredictable Talladega, however, is among Johnson's worst tracks. He only has worse average finishes at Richmond and Daytona. He showed he planned to be aggressive early, knowing that he needed a win to move on. He found himself battling against Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who led a second-best 31 laps. Along with Johnson, Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne would all leave Alabama out of title contention. "It's just Talladega," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "We have been up front all day and I don't know where we are going to end up. You just can't avoid it down here when you are running that close together. It's just what you have to get used to and accept it and move on. It's not easy." Johnson, on the other hand, found Sunday's race easier than what his team has faced in the past two weeks. After being involved in a wreck in the opening race of the Contender Round at Kansas Speedway , the No. 48 team headed to Charlotte in 12th, 44 points back from points leader Joey Logano . Battling an ill-handling car that could only get Johnson to a 17th-place finish at Charlotte, Johnson fell 57 points out of the lead. "Today I went down swinging, and I'll take pride in that," Johnson said. "Am I disappointed in our Chase? Absolutely. In the last two weeks, people tuned in on the radio and there's been plenty of articles written this week. Frustration was high. Frustration's been high between Chad and I and the fact that we haven't been able to produce like we wanted to. Today we went down swinging, we had a chance. We came up short, and we have to make the best of 2015." The No. 48 team still has a chance to end the season in the top five in points, a finish Johnson is determined to get. His worst finish so far during his full-time Sprint Cup Series career is sixth. "We still have a chance to finish fifth in points, which would mean the world to me, " he said. "The worst I've ever finished is sixth in points, so it's not time to put our feet up, we need to finish strong and try to be in the top five." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Dale Jr. led 31 laps, but ultimately came up short at Talladega RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s title hopes came to a disappointing end Sunday on the backstretch of Talladega Superspeedway . Caught up in a multi-car accident during the first of two green-white-checkered attempts, the Hendrick Motorsports driver wound up 31st in the GEICO 500 . A long shot became no shot. The opportunity to advance to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup went out the window when contact from Greg Biffle sent Earnhardt's car spinning into the wall. Earnhardt joined teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne , along with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch , as those eliminated from Chase title contention. "I don't know if I came down on him or what," Earnhardt said of the contact with the Roush Fenway Racing driver. "I thought I was holding my line, but we were all kind of tight back there.” Earnhardt, Johnson and Brad Keselowski , bringing up the rear of the Chase points heading into the race, needed a win to advance to the next round. Keselowski accomplished the feat, on one of the most treacherous tracks on the schedule. Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet was out front twice for 31 laps, and when he wasn't leading he was often dicing up front among those who were. But getting shuffled back in the field during the final stage of the race left him in a precarious position. "We worked real hard all day long trying to run up front," Earnhardt said. "I knew we needed to be up front all day long. We got shuffled to the back. I made a move trying to get up front and it didn't work out. So, we lost a lot of track position and never got it back. "You need to be up front. You need to be in the top four the last few restarts. Those are the guys that have a shot at it. You know you're not going to pass 10 or 12 cars there in six or seven laps. We tried. It just didn't work out." In a race that saw 38 lead changes among 19 drivers, Earnhardt broke out on top on Lap 75 and stayed on the point for 29 laps. He lost the lead during a round of pit stops, then led briefly for two more laps shortly afterward. He was able to stay around the top 10 for much of the second half of the race, until only some 30 or so laps remained. Even then, given the unpredictable nature of racing on the 2.66-mile track, hope remained. "We worked hard to try to get back into the top five or so, and it just didn't work out," he said. "The car did get loose on one run. We made a good adjustment and it was driving good at the end." Crew chief Steve Letarte said it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. "We just never could get a foothold; never could mount a charge back to the front," he said. "That's just how it is. Sometimes you get cycled out at the wrong time and that was definitely not the right time to get cycled out." While the car certainly seemed capable of winning, Letarte said the nature of racing here tempers expectations. "I'm not going to say it doesn't matter," he said. "I don't want to discount the hard work our company puts in the engines and these (crew) guys put into the car, but … a great car gives you very little guarantee." A winner of three races prior to the start of the Chase, Earnhardt came to Talladega on the heels of disappointing finishes at Kansas and Charlotte that put his team in a must-win scenario. That he was unable to advance was disappointing, but not crushing. "There have probably been worse things," he said. "I'm not retiring or anything, so we'll try next year. "We've had a good season and have a lot to be looking forward to. We're definitely not going to get too torn up about (it); we didn't run well." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation