Joey Logano wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Joey Logano slipped past leader Brad Keselowski on the final lap and won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Although Chevrolet drivers won the season’s first four races, Fords and Toyotas were in the mix for the win in the closing laps Sunday.
Keselowski, seeking to end a 66-race winless streak, held the lead at the white flag, but Logano, helped by a push from Christopher Bell, ran past Keselowski on the outside and took the lead for good. Following in the top five were Bell, Corey LaJoie (his best career finish) and Tyler Reddick, who ran well despite fighting an illness Sunday morning.
Early in his racing career, Logano ran Legends cars on the quarter-mile track along the AMS frontstretch, so finally scoring at the track in Cup racing produced an emotional moment. His father was the first one to his car after the win.
"(This is) so special to win Atlanta for me,” Logano said. “So many memories of me and my dad racing right here on the quarter mile. This is the full circle for us. So many memories gritting over there with the Legends car, racing, having a big time. Dreaming of going straight at the quarter-mile and going on to the big track. That was always the dream to do it. To finally win here means so much to me here personally, but the team.
“This thing was an animal. Very, very fast. Able to lead a ton of laps, race really hard there at the end, get a good push from the 20 (Bell) to clear myself. Enough of a push to get in.”
The win was the 32nd of Logano’s career but his first at Atlanta. He led 140 laps to Keselowski’s 47, and they raced side-by-side over the closing laps.
“I know Brad really well on and off the racetrack, right?,” Logano said. “I know he’s going to do anything to win a race. And rightfully so. I wouldn’t say our racing mentalities are very different. That’s why I feel like we get along well. We also sometimes have clashed on a track every now and then. Not very often.
“We both race really, really hard. So I felt like we were definitely going to duke it out. When I got to his outside, it was either he was going to wreck or we were going to just race and, hopefully, he was going to get the big push on the bottom. That was his only hope there. It just ultimately ended up working out fine.”
Although there were accidents, the race was much calmer than Saturday’s Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races at the track. Both of those races were plagued by accidents and numerous caution flags.
Leader Aric Almirola, running on older tires, lost control with 52 laps remaining Sunday when a tire exploded. He was hit by second-place Kyle Larson. Both cars suffered major damage, and Almirola and Larson left the race.
With 71 laps remaining, a multi-car crash began when leader Kevin Harvick lost control as Ross Chastain approached his rear bumper. As Harvick spun out of control, cars scrambled in the middle of the lead drafting pack. Chris Buescher’s car spun and hit the inside wall. Chastain inherited the lead.
Austin Cindric finished first at the end of Stage 2. Reddick, Logano, Alex Bowman and William Byron followed Cindric to the finish line. Through two stages, Logano had led 135 laps. No other driver had led more than seven.
Logano, the pole winner, was the boss in the first stage, leading all 60 laps to score his first stage win of the season. He was followed by Cindric, Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin.
The race’s first caution flew only 11 laps into the race as Bubba Wallace hit the inside wall. After repairs, he returned to the race two laps down and in last place. He later lost another lap.
Stage 1 winner: Joey Logano
Stage 2 winner: Austin Cindric
Who had a good race: Joey Logano clearly had the dominant car over the first two stages and made a fine move on the last lap to win. ... Brad Keselowski ran at or near the front all day and put himself in position to win over the final laps, finishing second. ... Corey LaJoie ran well in the final stage and finished fourth, continuing a strong start to the season.
Who had a bad race: Bubba Wallace brought out the race’s first caution on Lap 11, losing control of his car and slamming the inside wall. He lost two laps. ... William Byron came into the race with two consecutive wins but was among the drivers sidelined by a multi-car crash with 71 laps left. ... Chris Buescher raced with the leaders but parked with heavy damage during the race’s fourth caution. ... Aric Almirola’s team gambled with tire strategy, taking the lead in the final stage but eventually failing as Almirola whacked the wall and left the race.
Next: The Cup Series rolls on to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for a March 26 race (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).