April 26, 2014 — By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service — Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images photo — RICHMOND, Va. — Joey Logano was penciled into a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Now you can write his name in indelible ink.
Capitalizing on beating and banging among competitors in front of him during the final nine-lap run, Logano surged from the fifth starting spot on the final restart to his second victory of the season in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Logano’s victory was his first at Richmond and the fifth of his career. Jeff Gordon came home second and retained the series lead by five points over Matt Kenseth, who ran fifth after tangling with fourth-place finisherBrad Keselowski while battling for the win in the closing laps .
On fresh tires after a late pit stop, Kyle Busch drove from 16th to third in the final run.
It was a race that had everything, from a spin by polesitter Kyle Larson in the first corner of the first lap (after contact from Clint Bowyer’s Toyota), to right-side tires that corded under stress and turned the wheels into flame throwers, to fiery tempers that continued after the checkered flag.
Keselowski and Kenseth swapped sheet metal and exchanged pleasantries on the cool-down lap. Nineteenth-place finisher Casey Mears shoved 18th-place Marcos Ambrose after the race—a carryover from a late racing incident—and in return took a right hook that wobbled him.
Logano, on the other hand, could barely contain his elation as he climbed from his car in Victory Lane.
“I had a terrible restart the one before the last one (on Lap 382), and then we had a good one (on the final restart on lap 392), but the 88 (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,” Logano said. “The 20 (Kenseth) started blocking the top because the 2 car (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’s just going to be one heck of a season, and I can’t wait to get to the race track next week.”
Earnhardt, who finished seventh after experiencing late brake problems, won a race off pit road under caution for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s fiery right front tire and led the field to green on Lap 305. One lap later, however, Logano passed Earnhardt for the top spot and pulled out to a lead of more than a half-second, with Penske teammate Keselowski in tow.
But Gordon won a drag race against Keselowski through Turns 3 and 4 to grab the second spot on Lap 332. Six laps later, Gordon passed Logano for the lead as the No. 22 Ford began to fade.
During that green-flag run, however, Kenseth began to assert himself, driving from sixth on the Lap 305 restart to the lead on Lap 362. Five laps after Kenseth wrested the top spot from Gordon, Jimmie Johnson’s tire issue in Turn 2 caused seventh caution and brought the field to pit road for fresh rubber.
Kenseth was first out of the pits for a restart on Lap 367, but on the restart lap, Denny Hamlin spun in Turn 3 to bring out caution No. 8. After two more cautions, Logano came from fifth to first after the final restart to win the race.
After the checkered flag, Keselowski was quick to express his displeasure with Kenseth.
“The 20 car ran me off the race track, so I made sure to give him a bump, and that was what Joey needed to win the race,” Keselowski said. “I’m happy for his team and everybody at Team Penske. I wish it could have been us, but that was the way it goes.”
For his part, Kenseth made no apologies for trying to win the race.
“He was mad because I ran into him a little bit getting into (Turn) 3, but we’re going for the win,” Kenseth said. “I ran him up to the third groove or so, but I’ve witnessed him racing that way a lot, like I think he did to Jimmie (Johnson) at Texas a few years ago.
“I thought once we got to the straightaway I left him enough room, unless I wasn’t clear—I need to re-watch it. I guess he’s upset about that, and we were all going for the win. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”