With the drama of a Chase for the Sprint Cup elimination race unfolding around him, the driver who entered 34th in the points nearly stole the checkered flag.
Joey Logano won the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, and Denny Hamlin edged Kurt Busch by .006 seconds for third place — and the final point he needed to advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason. In between, Boise High graduate Brian Scott matched his best effort in either of NASCAR’s top two series, finishing second on the track where he has achieved some of his greatest success.
Scott, driving the No. 44 Goody’s Fast Pain Relief Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, started 25th and surged into the top five within the first 50 laps of the 192-lap event.
By Lap 110, he was a fixture in the top 10, and he was in the No. 2 spot when the race went to overtime after Alex Bowman spun with three scheduled laps remaining. He hadn’t finished in the top 20 since an 18th-place effort at Bristol in August, and he never placed higher than 12th in 48 Sprint Cup races.
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But if there were a place for Scott, who is fourth in the Rookie of the Year standings, to break through, Talladega was it.
Scott was the top qualifier for the 2014 Aaron’s 499, taking the pole for Richard Childress Racing in his fifth career start. His prior three Cup finishes at the 2.66-mile, restrictor-plate track — 42nd, 43rd and 30th — weren’t cause for optimism. But he placed 10th and 11th in his first two Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series appearances, and he led 10 laps en route to a second-place finish in last year’s Winn-Dixie 300, where he also trailed Logano.
Logano was not in a must-win situation in the final race of the Round of 12, but the victory helps the 2014 finalist and 2015 wins leader.
“Feels good to win on a clutch moment like that with the pressure on,” Logano said. “I think we ran like a champ.”
Hamlin scrambled through the final turn to tie Austin Dillon for eighth in points, and he advanced due to a higher average finish in the past three races.
“I wasn’t sure whether I needed to finish third,” Hamlin said. “(Dillon’s) fighting and getting positions. He could change two positions in the last hundred yards. So you can’t really predict it. I knew I just had to try to finish as good as I could.”
Championship favorite Martin Truex Jr., who won two first-round races, was eliminated 41 laps in due to engine failure. Brad Keselowski, the 2013 Sprint Cup champion, led 90 laps in this race before losing his engine with 43 to go.