TALLADEGA, Ala. – At a track where drivers traditionally need teammates in the closing laps, Joey Logano held off all challengers to take his third win at Talladega Superspeedway.
Logano led a race-high 70 of 188 laps in the GEICO 500, but it was a flawless final stint that allowed him to park the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford in victory lane.
The Middletown, Conn., native jumped out to the race lead with a push from Kevin Harvick on the final restart with 17 laps left and never trailed again, holding off a final-lap surge from Kurt Busch to capture his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win since April of 2017 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
“Man, this has been quite the weekend. This win has been a long time coming,” said Logano, who ended a 36-race winless drought. “We’ve been finishing consistent and scoring points, but the win we knew was right around the corner. We knew if we kept doing what we were doing, it would come sooner or later, and it finally did today.”
Sunday marked Logano’s third win at the 2.66-mile, high-banked tri-oval and the 19th of his Cup Series career, elevating him into a tie with Davey Allison, Buddy Baker, Greg Biffle and Fonty Flock for 41st all-time.
Up until the final two laps, the Fords of Logano, Kevin Harvick, Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. raced in lock-step formation on the bottom of the track, preventing the outside line from building a run.
That philosophy of working together, Logano noted, was what propelled him to victory lane.
“Fast Ford teamwork is what did it today and got us to a win,” said Logano. “It wasn’t only with the Team Penske Fords either; it was all of the Fords. We worked really well together and we got a Blue Oval in victory lane. I’m super proud of that and proud of getting this Shell/Pennzoil team back into victory lane. It feels so good to be back and to win again – there’s no feeling like this.”
The sprint to the finish in the final stage was sparked by a caution for fluid from the No. 51 of Timmy Hill, leading to a restart with 29 laps left that saw Logano shoved to the point by Harvick on the bottom lane.
However, the complexion of the race changed in a hurry six laps later, when the dreaded Big One broke out in turn three and saw half of the lead-lap cars demolished in its wake.
The incident started when Jimmie Johnson came down on his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron, with Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet packing air on the left rear fender of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet and sucking both cars around.
From there, the rest of the field piled in. The incident involved 14 cars and eliminated contenders like Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard and Ryan Blaney from the race.
“We just got side drafted into (turn) three, I got free and then packed air on his (Johnson’s) left rear and it pulled us both around,” explained Byron. “It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the end; we had a pretty good race up to then. We’ll learn from this and come back here in the fall to try it again.”
After that, the race ran under green flag conditions to the finish, with the final 17 laps punctuated by the Fords teaming up and leaving the rest of the lead pack in their wake.
It wasn’t until five to go that Aric Almirola started to build some momentum on the top lane, but by then it was largely too little and too late.
Coming to the white flag, Kurt Busch finally got enough of a run to work around his teammate and have a shot, but he couldn’t get enough of a push from behind to get alongside Logano on the final lap.
“I just felt like I needed to do something different, but I needed a run from behind,” said Busch. “The No. 17 (Stenhouse) broke up Kevin and I, and I had really wanted to stay with Kevin. My plan was to roll with him until the last lap and then slingshot by him on the outside. But Stenhouse was one of the strongest guy here at the end. I just needed him closer to my rear bumper to get that draft and to get that run.
“Things just didn’t quite materialize. I got outfoxed and I didn’t quite make the right move. It’s a shame, because that was one of the best Fords I’ve ever had here. We’re there. We’ll win one soon.”
Chase Elliott crossed the line in third ahead of Harvick and Stenhouse.
David Ragan, Almirola, Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez completed the top 10.
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