JOLIET, Ill. — If the plan was to spot the competition a lead, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano have their rivals right where they want them. Both got off to a miserable start in the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Logano, the pole-sitter, was forced to drop out of Sunday’s rain-delayed Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway when his engine quit with 91 laps remaining. He finished 37th.
Some 50 laps later, Earnhardt wound up following Logano onto pit road with a race-ending problem of his own. He settled for 35th.
They were the only two in the 13-driver Chase qualifying field not to finish the first of NASCAR’s 10-race, season-ending playoff series. None of the other Chase drivers finished worse than 16th.
‘‘I am pretty angry,’’ Logano said. ‘‘That was such a fast race car we had.’’
The start was delayed by mist for almost 90 minutes. Once the race did go off, it made it almost to the halfway point before the sky opened up again. In all, there were two stoppages totaling 6 hours, 30 minutes and winner Matt Kenseth didn’t cross the finish line until early Monday morning.
Logano moves to the next race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ranked 12th, 52 points behind Kenseth, while Earnhardt is 13th, 53 points back.
Logano was embroiled in the scandal-plagued race at Richmond last weekend. After an investigation, NASCAR officials punished Michael Waltrip Racing for its role in manipulating the race. Additionally, Logano’s Penske Racing team was placed on probation Friday for its role in bargaining for track position at Richmond to get Logano in the Chase.