Joey Logano has earned his third victory of 2014.
On a warm night in Bristol, the action in the IRWIN Tools Night Race was even hotter as NASCAR’s finest drivers battled for the win. When the dust settled, Joey Logano raced his way into victory lane in the 24th Sprint Cup Series race of the season.
A late-race call to pit resulted in the Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske Ford taking the checkered flag tonight. His teammate Brad Keselowski had a go at him in the final corner but it just wasn't enough to steal the win. Matt Kenseth rounded out the top three.
It was crazy out there. Every lap was so intense.
Said the young victor, “It was crazy out there. Every lap was so intense. At the end, something was vibrating in the car, and I was ready for a tire to fall off, but we were good enough. I woke up this morning feeling like we had a top-five car, but Todd Gordon told me about all his changes, to make me think we had a winning car and it turns out we did.
“This is probably the coolest win of all-time, as Bristol is such a tough race track. I knew Brad (Keselowski) was catching me, and I just had to be patient. It is awesome to win three times in one year; I’ve never won one race in a year before. We can win this championship; we are showing it every time we come to the race track and we just have to keep doing it.”
Logano grabbed the lead for the final time with 45 laps to go, passing Matt Kenseth.
Keselowski made it tough for Logano as the race wound down but came up a scant .391 seconds back.
In winning for the 3rd time in 2014, Logano displayed championship form, as he boosted his confidence for the upcoming Chase. The winner led 76 laps.
The race pace was really brutal and aggressive
For Team Penske, the formidable team earned a one-two finish and swept the weekend at Bristol.
For Ford, it swept the three-race weekend at Bristol, scoring a sweep for the first time since 2006. The manufacturer won its 627th all-time series victory. Matt Kenseth would finish directly behind the Penske duo
Said runner-up finisher Keselowski “It was a hard night, as the race pace was really brutal and aggressive. I swear this is the most grueling race of the year. It feels good to just complete it and to be able to look myself in the eye and know I gave it all I had. It wasn’t enough but I didn’t fall out of the seat.”
Even though Keselowski made it look close at the end, he didn’t think it was that close. “Running second is something to be proud of and to have one more position would be better but it wasn’t just there. Every time I got close to Joey I picked up a massive aero push, and I lost too much speed. I dive bombed it in there on the last lap and while it looked cool, it wasn’t that close.”
Logano and Keselowski each have three wins, and each has let it be known they have championship aspirations.
Kenseth opted not to stop for tires to gain the lead with 70 laps to go and while he held down the top spot for a while, he didn’t have enough to hold off his two formidable challengers.
“We finished better than we ran, as we weren’t very good in traffic,” he said. “At the end, we tried to stretch it out, but they cleared everybody way too fast. We just hung on and overall it was a good night. We didn’t have the speed to win the race but we tried out best and ended up with a decent finish.”
They were followed by Jimmie Johnson in fourth, who rebounded after two speeding penalties during the race. Kurt Busch filled out the final spot inside the top five. Roush-Fenway Racing teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Carl Edwards came home sixth and seventh; they were also the drivers who placed first and second in the spring race here.
Jamie McMurray pitted from the lead during the final caution in a move that certainly did not pay off for the man who led the most laps. He would have to settle for eighth after failing to claw his way back to the front. Paul Menard and Greg Biffle took home the final two spots inside the top ten. Jeff Burton, subbing for Tony Stewart, finished 15th.
Leading the way in the Chase hunt as a non-winner is Kenseth, and he is trailed by Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Biffle. Rookie Kyle Larson sits in fifth 26 points behind Biffle.
Wrecks were commonplace as Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, both got swept up in the chaos. While in the lead early-on, Busch incurred a pit-road speeding penalty and on lap 125, he got caught up in a wreck with three others.
Shortly thereafter, Hamlin, running first, got tagged by Harvick and spun, ricocheting back across the track and into Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hamlin thought he had a winning car and to offset his frustration with the outcome, he tossed his HANS device at Harvick’s car, hitting it. Earnhardt’s car suffered severe damage, briefly returning to the track before finally taking it to the garage for good.
Nine yellow flags slowed the grueling race for 64 laps.