NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano celebrates his victory in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — So many drivers studied NASCAR’s new championship Chase format and singled out the second round as the one they feared the most.

The difficult three-race stretch of Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega will knock four drivers from the field, and none wanted their championship hopes to be dependent on a good day at Talladega. It meant they had to be solid in the opener of the second round at Kansas Speedway, a notorious track for whittling the field of championship contenders. Kansas lived up to its reputation Sunday as four Chase drivers finished 22nd or worse in a race that was plagued by tire problems for several contenders. The victory went to Joey Logano, who earned an automatic berth into the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, and can breathe easier the next two races.

Jimmie Johnson was wrecked early and finished 40th, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a tire problem while leading that caused him to wreck and finish 39th. Brad Keselowski was 36th after a tire problem, and Kasey Kahne thought a tire issue caused him to hit the wall and finish 22nd.

Kyle Larson — who is not part of the Chase — finished second and was followed by championship-eligible driver Kyle Busch, who finished a career-best third at a track where he has continuously seen his title hopes fall apart.

F1 driver critical after crash

SUZUKA, Japan — Marussia Formula One driver Jules Bianchi was listed in critical condition after crashing at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Bianchi, 25, was unconscious when he was taken to a nearby hospital following a crash during the rain-shortened race, and underwent emergency surgery after a scan revealed a severe head injury. Officials said Bianchi will be moved to intensive care after the surgery.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the race. With Hamilton leading teammate Nico Rosberg, a red flag ended the race on the 44th of 53 laps due to the crash. With heavy rain falling and visibility poor, race officials elected not to re-start, and Hamilton was declared the winner.

“Our first thoughts go to Jules,” Hamilton said. “It overshadows everything else when one of our colleagues is injured, and we are praying for him. Next to this, the race result doesn’t seem significant at all.”