TALLADEGA, Ala. – official series PR by Mark McCarter – Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images –
Fresh from an “intense” final eight laps, Joey Logano parked his No. 22 Ford, caught his breath and proclaimed that it was “cool to get this thing in Victory Lane.”
This, then, can be pronounced a season of “cool” for Logano, who’ll turn 25 later this month. His triumph in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn-Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway was his third in five series starts, to go along with two runner-up finishes.
Couple that with a victory in the Daytona 500 and eight top 10s in nine Sprint Cup races, how is he not on everyone’s NASCAR fantasy team for Sunday’s Sprint Cup GEICO 500 race (1 p.m. ET on FOX) at Talladega?
“This has been a pretty special season so far,” Logano said. “We’ve had some fast race cars.”
Brian Scott was second, followed by his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, the Coors Light Pole-sitter. (The front row was All-Dillon, All-RCR, with younger brother Ty on the outside, and Scott starting third.)
J.J. Yeley was fourth and Joey Gase, a youngster with a team budget so small “I don’t even have a PR person,” was fifth. Gase, who started 39th, noted that his sponsorship funding “for the entire year is what some of these teams have for one race.”
Logano stole the lead from Elliott Sadler after a restart with eight laps remaining, then it “was just having the right people behind you, making the right moves, making the right block and getting that clean air. Then it’s all in the mirror,” Logano said.
Typical of a Talladega race, this was not without incident, though the infamous Big One didn’t erupt.
Barely had the green flag drop than did a yellow flag waved. Sadler, in the lead and on the outside lane, dropped toward the bottom lane on the second lap without having cleared teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. It sent both cars careening, but both were able to resume racing; Sadler went on to finish seventh, Wallace 20th.
Defending XFINITY Series champion and NASCAR Next alum Chase Elliott cut a tire on lap 37, rocketing him into the outside wall in turn 2. He took responsibility for having locked the tires on entry to pit road prior to a two-tire stop only a couple of laps earlier, bemoaning “I wish I had spoken up and (the crew would have) said to come back and fix the two rights.”
With only a third of the race remaining, green flag pit stops were necessary. Trouble is, as Kenny Wallace put it, “The whole field can’t pit at once or they’ll wreck. And they did.”
Between slowing cars, others veering toward the pits and apparent indecision on the part of some drivers, “chaos happened,” as an irate Brendan Gaughan said.
A nine-car accident erupted near the entrance to pit road on the front stretch, involving, among others, Gaughan, Ty Dillon, Ryan Reed and NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity alums Wallace and Daniel Suarez. Two members of Aric Almirola’s crew were injured as Gaughan careened into the pit wall; one was treated and released from the infield care center, the other transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Logano becomes the eighth winner in nine XFINITY events who is ineligible for the series championship; drivers may race in multiple series but must declare their intention to run for only one title. Reed, 32nd on Saturday, is the only series regular with a victory.
CREDIT: NASCAR Media PR