It was an exciting night under the lights at Richmond in a race that saw cars bursting into flames, drivers going three wide for the lead in the closing laps, and there were even a few punches thrown!
Richmond, Va. – Under the lights on a breezy Saturday evening at the Richmond International Raceway, Joey Logano scooted to victory in the Toyota Owners 400, the ninth race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Powering into the lead in the late going, Logano wasn’t to be denied as he won for the second time in 2014 to literally guaranty a spot in the all-important Chase field.
He also won for the fifth time in his career and captured his first-ever short-track win.
The winner drove the Shell Pennzoil Ford owned by Team Penske, and his margin of victory over Jeff Gordon was .946 seconds. Logano led 46 laps, including the final four.
Said the happy winner, “I had a terrible restart the one before the last one and then we had a good one, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. in front of me didn’t have the best and once we started racing there were three cars in front of me, and I thought I had a shot still. Matt Kenseth started blocking the top because Brad Keselowski was so fast up top for the first 10 laps of a run and eventually I had enough room to turn up underneath him and get enough clean air on the car to take off.
“This isn’t a very good race track for me in the past, but we had a really good Shell Pennzoil Ford today and we were able to put it in victory lane. This is so cool to win two races already this season, and it is just going to be one heck of a season. I can’t wait to get to the race track next week.”
In winning twice, Logano firmly secures a spot in the Chase and he said it allows him to drive even harder as the season progresses. Crew chief Todd Gordon was guardedly optimistic as the race neared the end. “I thought we had a good shot at it since we were good on restarts,” he said. “I have to thank Brad Keselowski as he drove his guts out to catch Matt Kenseth.”
From the outset, the front-runners were Gordon, Logano, Keselowski and Kevin Harvick with these four dominating the competition until Kenseth jumped into the fray near the end. Gordon led 173 laps and Keselowski 114.
In the end, Gordon ended up second followed by Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Kenseth, A. J. Allmendinger, Earnhardt, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr.
Stated Gordon, “I felt we had a shot at it when we started on the inside on a restart. My car was a little bit freer underneath those guys than I had anticipated, and I fell back to fourth. After a couple more restarts, I got into third and at the end, I knew I was better than Matt (Kenseth) but couldn’t get a run off the bottom.
“When Brad (Keselowski) got to the outside of me, I thought we were done, but Matt started blocking him and I came back. But Joey (Logano) was in a great position and the rest of us were sliding around. To come home second is still a great finish. We are having fun. It is frustrating not to win but each time we run it build more confidence and momentum that we are going to get that win soon.” Busch was not a contender until the final 50 laps, but he made bold moves to garner the third spot.
“Our day started out a little slow but we eventually got up to fourth,” Busch said. “But a little change we made to the car dropped us back to 14th, and we were battling out car. That last restart was intense and I doubted my crew chief for putting new tires on. But when the race went green, I was able to drive around everyone. I thought we had a shot to win but once I caught the leaders, they were single-file. I got there too late.”
While the action was calm during the first 369 laps, the scene changed near the end with fender bashing, caution flags and intense action. Once the checkered flag fell on Logano, Kenseth and Keselowski got into it, and Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears came to blows on pit road.
The latter two ended up finishing 18th and 19th, respectively.
Said Keselowski about his bout with Kenseth, “He ran me off the race track, so I made sure to give him a bump, and that was what Joey (Logano) needed to win the race. I am happy for his team and everybody at Team Penske.”
Tire problems caused major damage to four cars and three of them went up in flames.
Nine caution flags slowed the action for 66 of the 400 laps.
With the Sprint Cup season reaching the quarter point, Gordon leads the points tally with 341 with Kenseth five behind and Edwards 26 back. Kyle Busch sits in fourth 31 back and Earnhardt holds down fifth 32 behind.
Logano moved up to sixth with Keselowski seventh and Jimmie Johnson eighth.
Johnson had an off-night, finishing 32nd four laps back.
The Sprint Cup competitors travel to the Talladega Superspeedway for racing next weekend.