On the last lap of the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Joey Logano passed Jeff Gordon to become the seventh different winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season.
Logano and his teammate Brad Keselowski, who is also the second-qualifier, took over the race, as they were in the spotlight at the 1.5-mile track, leading 193 of the 340 laps. Although, the late-race green-white-checkered flag set up a gut wrenching finish. Logano needed to pass the four-time champion Kyle Busch for the victory. Busch finished third, Brian Vickers finished forth, and rookie Kyle Larson took fifth.
This was Logano’s fourth victory out of 190 career starts. This was his second win since joining Team Penske. Logano took the lead on lap 227 and continued out in the front for many laps. This was his first win since August at Michigan.
Texas is a good track to Logano. He finished fifth at Texas last year and he finished third last November.
As if the long rain-delay weren’t enough for one day, Kurt Busch’s exploding rear tire caused the final caution on Monday.
In an interview with FOX Sports, Logano said, “Had a good enough restart, we had a good enough run on the 24 (Gordon) to pass him at the end, but man, awesome.”
Todd Gordon, Logano’s crew chief, made all the right decisions. His decision to adjust the car as the long race continued and the weather went from freezing cold and dark to warm and sunny was extremely helpful in Logano taking the win. When the skies cleared is when the No. 22 Penske Ford began its takeover.
Gordon, who was the runner-up, gambled on a two-tire pit stop at the final caution, which did allow him to take the lead for a little while. But, he wasn’t able to hold off the surging Logano. Logano had four brand new tires on his Ford.
In an interview with FOX Sports, Gordon said, “We got a pretty good restart. Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose through (turns) 1 and 2, and I wish I would have gone a little bit higher down in 3 and 4, but he got that run off of 4.” Gordon took over as point’s leader for the first time since May 25, 2009.
The Penske team was fast. They were non-stop fast during the entire race.
The race was delayed by an entire day due to the rain and the started off strangely. The first 10 laps were run under green and yellow flags. During the change in flags, Keselowski got too close to one of the jet dryers and it popped the back of his hood up. This caused three different pit stops to try and tape the hood back down.
Drivers only allowed three full laps with a fully green flag before the series point leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. swerved left into the infield grass on the front stretch. His splitter caught the wet turf that was moist and soggy, which completely tore up the front of his No. 88 Chevrolet. It sent him across the track and he slammed directly into the outside wall. And he slammed it hard.
Jimmie Johnson’s racecar took a huge hit as well. During the incident, the nose and windshield of his car experienced serious damage. Johnson was right behind Earnhardt when the crash happened and most of the mud and dirt that came up from under Earnhardt’s car landed on Johnson’s.
On lap 25, the race resumed. Finally.
Don’t get too excited, though. Four laps later, Kevin Harvick, who had been in second place and right behind the leader, Tony Stewart, began smoking as the engine of his Steward-Haas Racing Chevrolet failed.
It was one thing after another.
Steward led all but two of the first 76 laps before Keselowski swept up the lead.
The fast green-flag pit stop was beneficial to Denny Hamlin as he was able to take over second place near the 100-lap mark and on lap 122 he smoked Keselowski on the backstretch.
Lap 142 wasn’t as good to Hamlin when he was going too fast exiting pit road and had to serve a pit-road penalty which made him hand the lead to his teammate Kyle Busch.
Only 11 laps later and Gordon went under Busch to take over the front spot.
Kurt Busch grazed the wall causing a caution and Keselowski used the high line to pass Gordon and take the lead, once again, on lap 185.
Another spin by Kurt Busch caused a caution. The race started again on lap 227 and Logano used the outside lane to take his first lead of the day. This pushed Keselowski to second right in front of Gordon.
Logano was in the lead for almost a full six seconds for some time but with only two laps to go, Kurt Busch blew his right-rear tire and brought out ANOTHER caution. This sent the entire field down pit road.
It seemed like this race was never going to end.
Gordon and Vickers took two tires each and Logano took four fresh tires where he came out of pit road in third. Keselowski lost his shot at victory when he got caught speeding on pit road.
Gordon led the restart but Logano didn’t let him get very far. On the last lap, Logano went right under Gordon and took the win.
What a race.
Congrats to Logano but I’d really like my next article to be about a Jimmie Johnson victory. Maybe I’m a little biased.
The next race will be at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 12th at Darlington Raceway.