RICHMOND, Va. – Joey Logano came out on top of a wild four car battle in the final nine laps to win Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Int’l Raceway.
The final nine-lap dash saw Logano come from fourth on the restart to overtake Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski in an intense battle that left several drivers with hot tempers.
The final dash to the finish was set up by a series of late-race caution flags. Issues with tire wear on right-front tires throughout the race consistently brought out the caution flag every 50 to 55 laps. Right on cue, the caution flag waved with 33 laps left when Jimmie Johnson’s right-front tire began to come apart.
Six laps before the caution, Matt Kenseth took the lead for the first time all night. He tracked down and passed Jeff Gordon for the lead with 39 laps left, giving him the lead as the field came down pit road in search of fresh rubber. Kenseth was able to maintain the lead during pit stops, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon following him off pit road.
The field returned to racing with 24 laps left, but they were only able to complete one lap before Denny Hamlin spun in turns three and four after a bump from teammate Kyle Busch. Out front, Kenseth was still in command with Earnhardt in second, Logano third and Gordon fourth.
The green flag came back out with 18 laps left and Kenseth managed to hold the lead again. This time Logano, who restarted right behind Kenseth, spun his tires and stacked up the inside line. That allowed Kenseth to build a solid lead, but before he could get too far away the caution flag waved again when the engine in J.J. Yeley’s entry failed.
After several laps of clean up, the field returned to racing with nine laps left. Kenseth was the leader, with Earnhardt, Gordon, Logano and Keselowski lined up behind him.
Kenseth again held the lead as the field returned to racing, but behind him Gordon was able to drive under Earnhardt to take second. Earnhardt faded on the top side of the track, allowing Keselowski and Logano to overtake him.
Gordon began to hound Kenseth on the low line, but while he was doing that Keselowski took to the high side to challenge both drivers for position. Keselowksi was able to get by Gordon with seven to go on the outside and began to challenge Kenseth for the lead.
Kenseth was doing everything he could, blocking both the top and bottom lanes in an effort to hold on to the lead. As he was doing that his line moved up the track and Keselowski and Gordon followed, allowing Logano to sneak to the inside of all three of them with five to go. One lap later, Logano was in the lead.
Once out front Logano pulled away from the three-car battle behind him. Gordon was eventually able to dispatch Kenseth and Keselowski, but by then Logano was long gone.
“I’m more surprised than anyone else here, this is probably one of my worst race tracks,” Logano said in victory lane. “We had a really good Shell/Pennzoil Ford. Man, what a crazy finish. I had a really bad restart and I thought man, I really screwed up here and I’m not going to win.
“Once they started battling ahead of me and the 20 (Kenseth) did a good job blocking the 2 (Keselowski) on the top, we were able to capitalize when they were blocking the top. I was able to get some air on the bottom and make the pass,” Logano said.