FORT WORTH, Texas – There was no stopping Joey Logano Monday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Logano passed Jeff Gordon on the last lap after a green-white-checkered restart to score his first victory of the 2014 season during the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500.
The 23-year-old Connecticut native was in command for much of the day. He led a race-high 108 laps during the 340-lap event, but a caution flag on the penultimate lap nearly derailed Logano’s shot at victory.
Logano held a more than two-second advantage over his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the closing laps, but as Logano was coming down the backstretch towards the white flag Kurt Busch slowed with a flat left-rear tire.
As Logano charged towards the white flag the tire on Busch’s car exploded, sending debris all over the track in turns three and four. NASCAR had no choice to wave the caution flag, setting up a green-white-checkered restart.
Under caution every lead-lap team opted to come down pit road for new tires. Most of the teams took four tires, but Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers opted for only two and were able to get off pit road first. Logano was next off pit road ahead of Keselowski.
Unfortunately for Keselowski he was busted by NASCAR for speeding while exiting pit road, forcing him to restart at the tail of the field. That allowed Kyle Busch to restart fourth with Greg Biffle in fifth.
Gordon was able to get a strong restart on the low lane with Logano following in his tire tracks through turns one and two. Vickers faded to the high side, blocking Kyle Busch’s momentum and allowing Gordon and Logano to pull away.
Gordon continued to lead down the backstretch and through turns three and four, but coming out of four Logano dove to the inside. Gordon beat Logano to the white flag, but entering turn one Logano completed the pass to take the lead.
Once in front, Logano powered away to a .476-second victory over Gordon. He is the seventh different winner in Sprint Cup competition this season in as many races. This was also the third time this season the winner of a Sprint Cup race was decided with a last-lap pass.
“Talk about a lot of emotion,” Logano said after his fourth career Sprint Cup victory. “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 said. “Man it feels good to be back in victory lane.”
Logano gave credit to his crew for turning his car around early in the day.
“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,” Logano said.
Gordon was happy to finish second, saying the two-tire call was his only shot at victory.
“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 ended the race in third, followed by Vickers and rookie Kyle Larson. Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and polesitter Tony Stewart completed the top 10.