Joey Logano had the lead in Sunday’s GEICO 500 for the final restart on Lap 185 of 188, but the front of the field proved a tough place to be, given what was happening behind him.
First, Kurt Busch got a promising run, and Logano felt obligated to block the No. 1 Chevrolet. But that gave eventual race winner Chase Elliott a chance to surge into the lead at Talladega Superspeedway with an assist from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman.
Elliott’s victory broke a seven-race Talladega winning streak for Ford drivers, with Logano having accounted for three of those victories.
“At the end, the 1 (Busch) had a big run, and I felt like I had to block that,” Logano said. “When I blocked that I can’t block both and the 9 (Elliott) got underneath me. If I chose the bottom and block the 9, I had the 88 (Bowman) there, and they were going to go by me as soon as they formed a run.
“I was not in a very good spot. Once I got on the outside, I thought that would be a better spot to be than the bottom, but the (Chevrolet) teammates there didn’t race each other to the end, which is good on their part, because it made sure one of their cars won. If they had gotten side-by-side, I think I could have made something happen, but they were selfless toward each other.”
A caution on the final lap preempted what might have been a different finish—though Logano didn’t think the outcome would have changed.
“I really think, even if it was green all the way to the end, it would have looked exactly the same,” Logano said. “There were no runs building and no momentum going. It’s a tough spot to be in.
“You think you are in a good spot, and anytime you can take the front row on a final restart you will take it, especially here at Talladega. But it’s tough when the numbers are stacked against you a little bit. The team did a good job, though, and our Mustang was really fast, and that’s what we have to be proud of.”
ROOKIE RYAN PREECE GETS CAREER-BEST FINISH IN WILD RACE
Ryan Preece did what a rookie is supposed to do at Talladega. He stayed out of trouble and finished the race.
And when caution flew on the final lap of the GEICO 500, Preece was running third behind race winner Chase Elliott and runner-up Alex Bowman.
Driving the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Chevrolet, Preece, a star of the first magnitude in the modified ranks, had his best career finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“It was awesome,” Preece said. “I was only here one other time, and that was in an Xfinity car in 2016, and I was running third with three to go and went for the hole and got flushed. So, I wasn’t going to do that today.
“Ultimately, it was a perfect situation for Chevy there on that restart, being able to line up and push each other and really not give the other manufacturers an opportunity to get by us. So a great day for (sponsor) Kroger and for JTG, and hopefully we can use this momentum moving forward.”
GEICO 500 ENDS IN A WILD RIDE FOR KYLE LARSON
Kyle Larson is used to flipping in a race car. That occurrence is almost commonplace in the midgets he drives on dirt when he’s not competing in a stock car.
But Sunday’s barrel-roll down the Talladega backstretch was a different matter. On the final lap of the GEICO 500, Larson was poised for a much-needed strong finish when David Ragan’s Ford clipped William Byron’s Chevrolet and sent Byron’s car spinning into Larson’s Chevy.
Larson slid toward the inside SAFER barrier with the Toyota of Jeffrey Earnhardt out of control beside him. Larson’s car launched and rolled over and over toward Turn 3.
“Initially, I thought I was going to hit the inside wall pretty hard,” Larson said. “And then right before I got to it, I felt it lift and was just hoping it would set down; and then it just started tumbling. That was probably the longest flip I’ve ever had. I haven’t seen a replay of it. I didn’t know if it would ever stop.
“I knew I was flipping and was just hoping that I wasn’t going to get any closer to the catch fence, so it was a little bit scary, but, thankfully, I’m all right. Thanks to the fab shop and Chip Ganassi Racing for building safe race cars. Like I said, that was scary. So, I’m just thankful that I’m OK.
“…I thought I would have a shot to win there, but it just didn’t work out. As soon as we left the restart zone (with four laps left), we were kind of just in a bad spot. When you’re like that and everybody is four or five-wide, you know something crazy is going to happen. But I had a good time today. I just wish we would have been on the right end of it for once this year.”