Battle didn’t end with checkered flag
• If NASCAR wanted drama, it certainly got it in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With spots in the Chase on the line and the laps winding down, the on-track incidents in the race’s final laps spilled onto pit road with confrontations between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin and then Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth, never known as hot head, was incensed with Keselowski for running into his car on pit road after the race and Kenseth had already unbuckled his seatbelts. There are likely to be some NASCAR ramifications early this week, but it’s unlikely anything to serious will come of it. Race winner Kevin Harvick was asked if he thought NASCAR would do anything, his reply: “No way. They’re loving it!”
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• Flying under the radar and amassing his best performance of his career in the Chase is Kyle Busch. In the first five Chase races, he hasn’t started worse than seventh and hasn’t finished worse than 10th. The only thing he hasn’t done is win, but he certainly seems to be moving in that direction.
• Kenseth, Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the four drivers in danger of being eliminated from title contention after next weekend’s race at Talladega, Ala. That’s three former champions and the sport’s most popular driver. Ouch.
How the remaining Chase drivers fared
1 . Joey Logano (3,088 points)
Logano was mired back in midpack most of the race then rallied to finish fourth. Already locked into Round 3 of the Chase, he never relented in his quest to get to the front.
2. Kyle Busch (-6)
Quietly amassing his best performance in his seventh Chase.
3. Kevin Harvick (-7)
He seems as if he should have far more than three wins this season but Saturday night’s could turn out to be the most important toward winning his first series championship.
4. Ryan Newman (-11)
Got caught up in a wreck with Danica Patrick and Logano but still managed to finish seventh and remains in good position to advance to Round 3.
5. Carl Edwards (-12)
May not have the speed he wants, but staying out of trouble is allowing Edwards to earn respectable finishes and maintain a solid position in the points.
6. Jeff Gordon (-14)
Gordon appeared to be a threat to win early then seemed to fall out of contention before rallying to finish second.
7. Denny Hamlin (-15)
Used pit strategy to briefly take the lead and came away with a ninth-place finish.
8. Kasey Kahne (-31)
Kahne struggled much of the race but rallied to finish 10th. He will be in a tough battle at Talladega to stave off elimination.
9. Matt Kenseth (-32)
Kenseth had more impact after the race than he appeared to in the race. An angry Kenseth physically confronted Keselowski in the garage after an incident on pit road afer the race.
10. Brad Keselowski (-50)
Not going to win NASCAR’s most popular driver award in the garage or out these days.
11. Jimmie Johnson (-57)
There seemed to be a lot of tension between Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus during the race. Pitting for four tires on the final caution did Johnson no favors, and he finished 17th.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-57)
Earnhardt seemed like he would contend for the win until he broke the shifter in his car. The repairs left him one lap down for much of the rest of the race.
Chase drivers already eliminated
13. AJ Allmendinger
14. Greg Biffle
15. Kurt Busch
16. Aric Almirola
5 key moments
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been confident of a win, ran into problems on Lap 136 when the shifter broke in his No. 88 Chevrolet.
2. Joey Logano hit Danica Patrick in an incident that also collected Ryan Newman on Lap 246.
3. Using a two-tire pit strategy, Denny Hamlin briefly moved into the lead on Lap 272.
4. Kevin Harvick, who led the most laps, ran down Hamlin and took the lead on Lap 294.
5. A late caution set up a two-lap dash to the finish, but Harvick got a jump on Jeff Gordon and held on for the win.