At the Richmond last season, Joey Logano was in a familiar position. This time, Logano was the man behind the wad of cars trying to go for the win, trying to capitalize on the beating and banging of the competitors in front of him, as drivers were hard on the gas during a nine-lap dash to the finish. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon were trying to break through into victory circle for the first time in 2014. Meanwhile, Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were trying to join Kevin Harvick as the only two-time winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season. How did Logano manage to get through?
With Brad Keselowski to his outside and Jeff Gordon to his inside, Matt Kenseth was like Michael Waltrip at Richmond. Kenseth was on the defense trying to keep the two animals from pouncing, but Jeff Gordon got into Kenseth just a bit as they were entering turn 2, forcing Gordon to check up, allowing Joey Logano to get to Gordon's inside. Once Kenseth became too occupied with Keselowski, Logano capitalized on the opportunity and took the lead. Gordon managed to get past both Kenseth and Keselowski for second, but Logano had already checked out from the field, as he never looked back to his second win of the 2014 season.
For the first time in his career, Joey Logano has won multiple Sprint Cup Series races in one season. This was another huge stepping stone in Logano's career. In 2012, people began to compare Joey Logano with Casey Atwood, a young up-and-comer who was judged to have moved up to early to NASCAR's top level and soon found himself out of a ride and out of the sport. Joey Logano is now a legitimate contender as we head to the nail biter race at Talladega Superspeedway, where your position on the race track is almost never safe from the inevitable wreck.
With fresh tires, Kyle Busch, a four-time winner at Richmond, surged during the final run, driving from 16th to third.
The race this evening was exactly what fans expected out of Saturday night short track racing. The race had everything. On the opening lap, pole-sitter Kyle Larson spun, tire management was once again a factor, and tempers flared after the checkered flag. Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth made contact on the cool-down lap, leading to Keselowski finger-pointing in the pits. Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears had a disagreement after the two were battling for the 18th position. Mears proceeded to shove Ambrose and was met with a short, crisp right hook to the face. That had to hurt, as it wobbled Mears.
Aside from the brouhahas, Joey Logano was celebrating the 5th win of his Sprint Cup Series career. "I'm more surprised than anyone else here,'' Logano said. ''This is one of my worst tracks." "This is so cool to win two races already this season, and it’s just going to be one heck of a season, and I can’t wait to get to the race track next week," Logano said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh, despite being hampered by brake issues. At one point, Jr. won the race off pit road, after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall because of a tire issue and led the field back to racing on lap 305. However, Joey Logano passed him on the following lap.
Matt Kenseth quietly moved up all night with his #20 machine. All of a sudden, Kenseth really began to surge. On lap 362, Kenseth passed Jeff Gordon for the lead. After some hard racing at the end, Brad Keselowski was quick to show his rancour towards Matt Kenseth."
"The 20 car ran me up the race track, so I made sure to give him a bump, and that was what Joey needed to win the race," Keselowski said. From my vantage point, it was just a typical short track race on a Saturday night for these drivers.
Kenseth brushed Keselowski's comments off. There were no apologies from the 2003 champion, who refused to apologize for trying to win at Richmond. "He was mad because I ran into him a little bit getting into turn 3 , but we’re going for the win," Kenseth said. "I’ve witnessed him racing that way a lot, like I think he did to Jimmie Johnson at Texas a few years ago."
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, said the sanctioning body would review the Ambrose/Mears incident during the week. Overall, it was a great race that will bring more fans to the race track, especially when we return in September to decide the chase field.
Jeff Gordon maintains a five point advantage, as he remains our Sprint Cup Series points leader, as we head to Talladega on May 4th.