E.A. Sports Today

A long year ends

Logano wins Geico 500 at Talladega, takes car into Victory Lane for the first time since ‘encumbered’ April 30 Richmond win

The Alabama Gang Superstretch turns into a mangled mess of metal after a 14-car pileup on Lap 166.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – The first thing Joey Logano said over the radio as he crossed the start-finish line and grasped the enormity of what just happened was “We’re back.”

It’s only been a year since Logano has driven his car into Victory Lane — 364 days, to be precise — but given the circumstances of his last win it felt “way too long.”

The 27-year-old led the final 41 laps and controlled the track in the final lap to win the Geico 500 Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. He blocked race runner-up Kurt Busch on the top and bottom in separate moves down the stretch to take the checkered flag Sunday.

Joey Logano talks about his first win in almost a year after taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s Geico 500.

“It feels so good to be back in Victory Lane; I hadn’t been that excited since probably the (2015 Daytona) 500,” Logano said. “We’ve been getting consistent, getting points. I knew a win was right around the corner. We don’t have to worry about that whole playoff thing anymore. We’re in.”

His last win came in the “encumbered” April 30, 2017 race at Richmond. Sunday’s win was his 19th in 377 Cup starts, third at Talladega (Fall 2015, Fall 2016) and marks the seventh year in a row he has won a race in the series.

Logano won last spring’s Richmond race, but the victory was checkered by an issue with the rear suspension discovered at the NASCAR R&D Center. Logano was docked 25 driver points, the team docked 25 owner points and crew chief Todd Gordon fined $50,000 and suspended for two races. Logano was able to keep the victory, but was denied an automatic berth in the playoffs.

His car Sunday passed post-race inspection, but is still headed to the R&D Center as the race winner.

The controversy set the team into a downward spiral that produced wrecks the next two weeks and five straight finishes outside the top 20. Logano’s best finish between that win and Sunday was a second when he returned to Richmond in the fall. He has been out of the top 10 only once this season (Phoenix) and has had three other top-5s (Daytona, Fontana, Richmond).

“I’d just have to say it was a perfect day and one we needed,” team owner Roger Penske said. “It gnaws on you when you’re not in the winner’s circle and I don’t think we had good enough cars for him last year at some point for him to execute, which didn’t help the situation. He said in the winner’s circle it’s really got the monkey off his back. Where I say he was cool and collected maybe inside he was torn up, but today it took care of all that.

“We’re never satisfied at Team Penske without getting in the winner’s circle, so I would say the monkey was on our back and getting that at through today is not just a win for Joey and Todd, but a win for the whole team. This is one that was gnawing on all of us.”

Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, polesitter Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top five. Fords occupied six of the top seven places, with Elliott’s third-place Chevy breaking up the bloc.

Logano grabbed the lead for the fourth time in the race on Lap 147 and never gave it up. The leaders managed to avoid The Big One that collected 14 cars in the Alabama Gang Superstretch, including stage winners Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard and one-time rookie race leader William Byron, 20 laps later.

In the closing laps the lead pack was lined up single-file with Logano leading Stewart-Haas teammates Busch and Harvick — the front-row starters — an the other challengers. When Harvick got shuffled out, Busch was hoping to get a last-lap push from Stenhouse, who the percentages told him would be the strongest car in that circumstance, but it never materialized.

“I got outfoxed; I didn’t quite make the right move,” Busch said. “I thought we’d make the move with the 17 and just didn’t get it. I’m happy that a Ford one; it wasn’t the right one.”


(22) Joey Logano, Ford
(41) Kurt Busch, Ford
(9) Chase Elliott, Chevy
(4) Kevin Harvick, Ford
(17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford
(38) David Ragan, Ford
(10) Aric Almirola, Ford
(88) Alex Bowman, Chevy
(31) Ryan Newman, Chevy
(19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota
(37) Chris Buescher, Chevy
(48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy
(18) Kyle Busch, Toyota
(11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota
(13) Ty Dillon, Chevy
(43) Bubba Wallace, Chevy
(95) Kasey Kahne, Chevy
(12) Ryan Blaney, Ford
(32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford
(96) D.J. Kennington, Toyota
(72) Cole Whitt, Chevy
(62) Brendan Gaughan, Chevy
(92) Timothy Peters, Ford
(23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota
(15) Ross Chastain, Chevy
(78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota
(00) Joey Gase, Chevy
(1) Jamie McMurray, Chevy
(24) William Byron, Chevy
(21) Paul Menard, Ford
(14) Clint Bowyer, Ford
(34) Michael McDowell, Ford
(2) Brad Keselowski, Ford
(47) A.J. Almendinger, Chevy
(3) Austin Dillon, Chevy
(51) Timmy Hill, Ford
(55) Reed Sorenson, Chevy
(6) Trevor Bayne, Ford
(20) Erik Jones, Toyota
(42) Kyle Larson, Chevy

Time of Race: 3:16.46.
Average Speed: 152.489 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.127 seconds
Caution flags: 6 for 29 laps
Lead changes: 25 among 16 drivers (Most led: Joey Logano 70)

William Byron (24), Paul Menard (21) and Michael McDowell gets tangled up in the Big One on Lap 166. Menard won the second stage and Byron was leading the race early in the third stage.

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