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Joey Logano wins at Talladega; Dale Earnhardt, Jr. eliminated from the Chase

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Joey Logano won the Campingworld.com 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Sunday, barely edging Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The race ended under a caution flag following a multi-car pileup seconds after the race was restarted following another caution

Earnhardt, needing a victory to advance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, was just inches from passing Logano when the caution came out. Finishing third was Jeff Gordon, followed by Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards in fifth.

“We’ve come to play this year,” said Logano from Victory Lane. “This team is all about winning.”

Logano and his team have plenty of that lately. He is the first driver to win three consecutive Chase races since 2007, when Jimmie Johnson won three in a row on his way to his second of 6 championships.

With the results of this race determining the 8 drivers moving forward to the next round of the Chase, NASCAR officials took extra care to get the finish right. They took great care before officially announcing the 8 drivers advancing to the Eliminator round.

Each position, worth one point in the standings, was determined after looking at video of the crash and where drivers were when the yellow light came on. Earnhardt and Kenseth knew they would not advance without winning.

Logano, Edwards, Gordon, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. clearly advanced without controversy. That left Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman to battle for the final two spots.

When the official results were announced, Newman and Hamlin were out while Harvick and Busch were in. Logano and six of the other contenders look to unseat defending champion Harvick.

Harvick finished the race with a car that could not get up to speed. Some of the other drivers believe Harvick may have taken actions that caused the final wreck, thereby cementing his place in the next round.

Nothing is expected to come of the complaints. However, NASCAR Vice-Chairman Mike Helton said that if any evidence surfaces changing NASCAR’s finding of no wrongdoing, they could reconsider Harvick’s status.

Earnhardt’s elimination did not go over well with the heavily pro-Earnhardt crowd in the stands. As Logano did his post-race burnout and victory spin with the checkered flag, debris from the stands landed on and around his #22 car.

Earnhardt took the disappointment in stride. He would not participate in any controversy on the way NASCAR handled the re-start or when the caution light came on, thereby ending his championship hopes.

“They (NASCAR) are the governing body,” he said. “I have 100 percent confidence in the decisions they make.”

The next round begins next Sunday at Martinsville, Va. Speedway. The Sprint Cup Champion will be crowned on November 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The full results from Talladega can be found here.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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