Joey Logano powered to the front late in Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and won the 400-miler, gathering an automatic berth in the championship race Nov. 6 at Phoenix.

Logano passed Ross Chastain, the leader, with three laps to go and led the rest of the way. He won by .817 of a second.

The year’s breakthrough driver, Chastain was fast over the final miles but couldn’t hold off Logano, who had fresher tires. Logano pitted for tires on lap 242 and raced from eighth to the lead. Chastain had pitted 13 laps earlier.

Chastain, who led a race-high 68 laps, pushed to the front in the race’s final stage and built leads up to two seconds as the final miles approached, but Logano gained on him steadily over the last 10 laps and made the winning pass with relative ease.

“Man, what a great car,” Logano said. “Penske cars were all fast. All of them were really fast today. Oh, man, all you want to do is get to the Championship Four when the season starts and race for a championship, and we’ve got the team to do it. I don’t see why we can’t win at this point.

“Racing Ross was fun. He was doing a good job air-blocking me, and I was just trying to be patient, and eventually, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go here.’ Just great to win out here in Vegas again, and it means so much getting to the championship.”

Logano thus becomes the first driver to fill one of the spots in the Championship Four. Three other drivers will earn the opportunity to race for the title in the next two weeks before the tour arrives at Phoenix Raceway the first weekend of November to decide the championship.

Chastain, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin sit above the cutline after Sunday’s race. Below the cutline are William Byron, Chase Briscoe, Blaney and Christopher Bell.

Chastain had a one-second lead over second-place Blaney on lap 228 when Blaney lost control of his Ford and hit the outside wall, slid across the track and hit the inside wall. Blaney  returned to the track with considerable damage, eventually finishing 28th and dampening his playoff chances.

Twelve laps later, Daniel Suarez, running in fourth, lost control of his car, came down the track and slid onto the infield grass, causing the day’s seventh caution.

The race saw some hot times in the desert, and the biggest involved two non-playoff drivers.

A major crash and post-crash altercation occurred on lap 95 as Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace tangled in Turn 4. Larson moved up the track and pushed Wallace into the outside wall. Wallace came down the track and hit Larson, sending both cars spinning. Larson’s car clipped the Toyota of Bell, damaging it and eliminating Bell from the race.

After he climbed out of his car, Wallace made a beeline for Larson, yelling at him and then pushing him several times before walking away.

Bell’s early exit from the race will cost him significantly in the playoff chase. After the first race of the round, he sits in the eighth and last spot in the standings.

The race’s first caution appeared with three laps left in the first stage as Kyle Busch lost control of his car exiting Turn 4, sliding into the outside wall and then onto the infield grass. Busch came back to finish third, behind Logano and Chastain. Briscoe was fourth and Hamlin fifth.

Wallace ran up front early in the race, leading at Las Vegas for the first time, and won the first stage. He led 24 laps during the stage. Pole winner Tyler Reddick led the most laps — 32.

The victory was Logano’s third of the season and the 30th of his career. He’ll be searching for a second championship at Phoenix.

Stage 1 winner: Bubba Wallace

Stage 2 winner: Ryan Blaney

Who had a good race: Joey Logano can be easily placed in the “good” category. Actually, the great category. He surged to the front with three laps left to win the race and advance to the championship finale in Phoenix. … Ross Chastain lost the lead late but finished a close second and remains solidly in the hunt for a Championship Four spot. … Kyle Busch turned in a strong rally after crashing late in the first stage, finishing third. … Chase Briscoe led laps late in the race and finished fourth.

Who had a bad race: Bubba Wallace finished last after crashing with Kyle Larson and then shoving Larson after the two drivers climbed out of their cars. … Christopher Bell was an innocent victim of the Wallace-Larson mess, as his car was damaged in a meeting with Larson’s after Wallace hit Larson. The 34th-place finish dropped Bell to eighth (last) in the playoff standings.

Next: The middle race in the Round of 8 is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2:30 pm. ET (NBC) at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. Remaining on the schedule after Homestead are Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).


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