NASCAR Sprint Cup: Buzzer Beater; Joey Logano Nets Texas Triumph with Last-Lap Pass

Jacob Seelman Featured, NASCAR, Southwest, West 0 Comments

April 7, 2014 — race report by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Race Chaser Online — Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images photo — FORT WORTH, TX — Seventh heaven? Seven-for-seven?

However you want to word it, Joey Logano just pushed the boundaries of the Chase Grid even further.

Logano stormed past Jeff Gordon using fresh tires on the final lap of a green-white-checkered finish Monday afternoon in Texas to win the Duck Commander 500, his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race win of 2014 and the fourth win of his Sprint Cup career.

Logano’s win made him the seventh different winner in seven Sprint Cup races this season, and also marked the third last-lap pass for the victory in 2014.

“Talk about a lot of emotion,” Logano said in victory lane. “You think you’re about to win the race and then the caution comes out when you’re coming to take the white.”

“Boys did a great job in the pits. Got us out right where we needed to be. I had good enough restart where I was able to get a good enough run on the 24 (Gordon) to pass him at the end,” Logano added. “Man it feels good to be back in victory lane.”

The Connecticut native was quick to point out the job by his Team Penske pit crew throughout the day as well.

“I felt very confident coming into this race,” Logano said. “I told Todd (Gordon, crew chief) before we came here that we were going to win this week. I was mad when we didn’t get the pole, but I felt like we had a car that could win this thing today. At the beginning of the race we didn’t and Todd and all the guys made good adjustments and had good stops all day.”

“I got one run, one longer run and it just came to me. I was able to drive up to fifth and get some cautions to be able to get some track position up near the front. Clean air means everything.”

Gordon hung on to finish second and take over the Sprint Cup series points lead by four markers over Matt Kenseth, but said the two-tire call was his one shot at a win.

“We were really strong the first half of the race,” Gordon said. “When the sun came out some guys came to the front and we just kind of lost the handling and we got real tight. Great call by Alan Gustafson (on the last pit stop).”

“That was a great battle. At one point I thought we didn’t have a shot at all. We got a pretty good restart. Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose through one and two. I wish I would have gone a little bit higher down in three and four, but he got that run off of four. Man, he got in the back of me and I thought I was going to wreck. At that point I was like second would be good.”

Kyle Busch came home third, with Brian Vickers also gambling on two tires to finish fourth. Rookie Kyle Larson rounded out the top five at the finish. Polesitter Tony Stewart finished the day in tenth.

The race began under green/yellow conditions in order for the cars to get heat in their tires and the race track, and it was Stewart credited with the early lead. However, cowl flap and hood issues caused by the jet driers that were still on the race track forced nearly a dozen drivers to pit road to secure the flaps before the green flag. Brad Keselowski had to pit three times to get his hood fully secured, with Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, Jimmie Johnson, Travis Kvapil, Kasey Kahne, Kenseth, Busch and Bowyer all being affected. NASCAR did allow all the drivers to start in their qualifying positions instead of dropping to the rear.

Once the green flag finally waved at Lap 11, Stewart took off on the cool track and was quickly followed by his teammate Kevin Harvick into Turn One, but the field was slowed in a hurry at Lap 13 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a move through the grass on the front stretch and subsequently blew the left front tire, pounding the outside wall twice as the car erupted into flames.

Junior escaped from the car uninjured as it came to a stop in Turn 2, but the points leader entering the afternoon would be done for the race and see his lead over Matt Kenseth in the standings evaporate. His teammate Johnson had to hit pit road after the incident as well, with debris from the No. 88’s slide through the grass caking the windshield of his Lowe’s Chevrolet.

After the cleanup, Tony Stewart led the field back to the green flag, but his teammate Harvick decided it was go time early, surging to lead Lap 25 on the bottom lane before Stewart fought back on the outside to reclaim the top spot.

That bit of glory would be the final one for Harvick all day, however, as the No. 4 Chevrolet went up in smoke at Lap 28, sending the Phoenix winner to the garage for the fifth straight race, this time with an engine failure. Harvick left the track without comment.

The problems would continue for the perennial Texas favorites early in the going, as six-time champion Jimmie Johnson cut down a right-rear tire at Lap 38 and was forced to pit road. He would fall 3 laps down after the problem and fight to rebound the rest of the day.

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, however, would be the driver making moves early in the race, clawing up from 12th to 5th by Lap 46 with a lightning-fast race car. When NASCAR threw the yellow at Lap 48 for a scheduled competition caution, it would be Stewart though who led the field both on and off of pit road.

At the Lap 54 restart, Stewart took off from the pack and left a furious scrap for second between Edwards and Keselowski, who changed the spot three times between each other over a four-lap period from Lap 56 to Lap 59, but soon after, Edwards would begin backing up through the field, falling all the way to eighth at Lap 63 after burning up the right rear tire on his Fastenal Ford.

Tony Stewart continued to lead and in the process set a Texas-sized record at Lap 73, becoming the all-time lap leader at Texas Motor Speedway ahead of Matt Kenseth when he lead his 757th lap all-time at the 1.5 mile speedway.

However, that lap would be one of the last that Stewart would lead in the early going as at Lap 76, Keselowski reeled in the No. 14 Chevrolet by running the high lane, making the pass for the lead one lap later after going low in Turn 3 to take the top spot from Stewart.

As Keselowski ran away with the lead, Mother Nature decided to change things up a bit, with the sun coming out at Lap 89 just before the first round of green flag pit stops began at Lap 91, when Marcos Ambrose and Ricky Stenhouse hit the pit road for service.

Keselowski finally gave up the lead to pit at Lap 98 and turned the front position over to Jeff Gordon, who assumed the race lead before pitting one lap later, in order to pick up a championship bonus point. After pit stops, Keselowski re-assumed the lead ahead of new front-runner Denny Hamlin and saw his nearest rival Stewart drop to fifth at the 100-lap mark of the event.

The field would begin to settle out into a long green-flag run but leader Keselowski would start to fade and at Lap 124, Hamlin’s Toyota would come to life and he would sweep around the high side to take the lead from Keselowski.

The second round of green flag pit stops commenced at Lap 136 as Kurt Busch hit the pit lane, and Hamlin would give up the lead at Lap 142 to pit. However, his day would take a turn for the worse as Hamlin was tagged for being too fast on pit lane, having to serve a pass-through penalty that dropped him all the way back to the tail of the lead lap in 17th.

Kyle Busch moved to the lead at Lap 145 after the round of pit stops cycled through, but his lead would be short-lived as a furiously-charging Jeff Gordon swept to the inside of Kyle Busch three-wide with the lapped machine of Martin Truex Jr. on the frontstretch to take the top spot away.

From there, Gordon would set sail all the way to the halfway mark of the race, leading by a healthy 1.6 seconds over Kyle Busch at Lap 167 of the 334-lap scheduled distance. That lead would evaporate, however, when the fourth caution of the event flew at Lap 176 for debris in Turn 4 from Kurt Busch’s long slide through the infield grass.

On the Lap 184 restart, Jeff Gordon led the field to the green flag, but was overhauled the following lap by Keselowski, who used the momentum from the high side to regain the lead and pull away once more over the ensuing run, bringing his Team Penske teammate Logano along for the ride with him as the two Fords began to pull away from the pack.

Problems would befall another top ten contender as Jamie McMurray was forced to dive to pit road at Lap 207 after suffering a flat tire in Turn 4. McMurray would safely make it to pit road but his day would be altered from there, being caught nearly two laps down after the unscheduled stop.

The fifth caution of the day came at Lap 220 and signified yet another painful memory in Stewart Haas Racing’s day as Kurt Busch went for a ride yet again, smacking the wall and showering debris in the Turn 1 short chute.

That would send the leaders back to pit road and when the green flag returned at Lap 226, it was Logano getting the better of his teammate and race leader Keselowski to snatch the lead away on the high side. Logano would settle into a rhythm ahead of Keselowski and log laps out front, but the driver making some noise was Denny Hamlin, who fought his way all the way up to sixth at Lap 231 after his earlier pit road issues.

Logano’s steadily-growing lead would be axed at Lap 255 for debris on the frontstretch, but that would not slow Logano one bit. He jumped back out front Keselowski and set sail again over another long green flag run, holding a 4 second lead at Lap 290 as the race wound into its final stages.

The final round of green-flag pit stops began at Lap 298 as Keselowski and Greg Biffle led the leaders down on pit road, but it was Logano who again reassumed the lead after pitting at Lap 300, re-extending his lead over the final 30 laps before a game-changing final caution flew to wipe out Logano’s advantage.

Kurt Busch slammed the outside wall in Turn 2 and shredded a left-rear tire just as Logano was about to cross under the flagstand to take the white flag, but debris strewn all through Turn 3 forced the caution lights to flash before the No. 22 Ford officially began the last lap, setting the stage for the final gamble and green-white-checkered finish.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now takes their fight to the historic Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500, under the lights on Saturday, April 12th. Coverage can be found on FOX and MRN Radio beginning at 7 PM Eastern.

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