What was effectively a Sunday cruise at Texas Motor Speedway for Joey Logano got far more interesting than he likely would have preferred.
Logano took the lead just after a restart at Lap 227 and dominated the final stages of the race – only to have a left-rear tire failure for Kurt Busch spray debris on the track and trigger the caution with two laps to go.
Coming out third after pit stops before the first Green-White-Checkered finish attempt, he was going to have to earn this one. And he did, blowing past Brian Vickers and then Jeff Gordon on the final lap to nail down a win in the Duck Commander 500.
After earning Top-5 finishes in both races last year at Texas Motor Speedway, Logano has conquered the 1.5-mile oval for the first time in his Sprint Cup career.
Additionally, he is now the seventh different winner in as many Sprint Cup races this season. With the result, he joins Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the Chase Grid, with the latter having won earlier this year in Las Vegas.
“Talk about a lot of emotions! You feel like you’re about to win the race and then the caution comes out when you’re coming to take the white and you’re ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” Logano told Fox Sports.
After Busch’s issue, Logano led the field to the pits where Gordon and Vickers leapfrogged him by taking two tires to Logano’s four.
That put Logano third in line ahead of Keselowski, albeit only briefly; Keselowski was tagged for speeding on pit road and had to drop to the tail end of the longest line (he would finish 15th).
Gordon got a good restart in G-W-C, but Logano quickly dispatched Vickers on the inside. Then, as the white flag waved, Logano went side-by-side with Gordon across the start/finish line.
Logano would complete the pass in Turn 1 and leave Gordon in the dust.
“The boys did a great job in the pits and we came out where we needed to be,” Logano said. “Then, I had a good enough restart and then a good enough run on [Gordon] to pass him…Man, it feels good to be back in Victory Lane, in the Chase. I’m just stoked.”
As for Gordon, who almost took a Texas A&M-sponsored car to Victory Lane in the Lone Star State, he admitted that he wouldn’t have had a chance to win without the yellow at the end.
“At one point [today], I thought we didn’t have a shot at all,” Gordon said. “We got a pretty good restart, Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose in [Turns] 1 and 2.
“I wish I’d would’ve gone a little bit higher down in 3 and 4, but he got that run off of 4 and then he got in the back of me so I thought I was gonna wreck. At that point, I was like, ‘Second would be good’ [laughs].”
Gordon can at least take solace in becoming the new Sprint Cup points leader by four points over Matt Kenseth.
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., entered Texas as the points leader but crashed out of the race on Lap 13 after running his left-side tires into the wet infield grass and then skidding into the wall.
That was part of a bizarre beginning to the event, which started with the first 10 laps running under yellow to help track dryers put more heat in the track.
Following Earnhardt’s wreck, another Texas contender fell by the wayside on Lap 28 as Kevin Harvick suffered a terminal engine problem that continues his run of horrid luck.
Fortunately, things eventually settled down and the race took on a normal rhythm – until the caution with two laps to go jumbled everything up.
While Logano and Gordon finished first and second pretty much by themselves, Kyle Busch was left to fight off a cluster of cars for third place. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was able to do the job, completing a solid run after starting 29th.
Vickers faded back on the restart after Logano took care of him, but was able to nip Kyle Larson at the stripe for fourth.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – DUCK COMMANDER 500 AT TEXAS
1. Joey Logano, led 108 laps
2. Jeff Gordon, led 40 laps
3. Kyle Busch, led 10 laps
4. Brian Vickers
5. Kyle Larson
6. Greg Biffle
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Clint Bowyer, led 1 lap
9. Paul Menard
10. Tony Stewart, led 74 laps
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Aric Almirola
13. Denny Hamlin, led 20 laps
14. Carl Edwards
15. Brad Keselowski, led 85 laps
16. Ryan Newman
17. Jamie McMurray
18. Martin Truex Jr.
ONE LAP DOWN
19. Trevor Bayne
20. Marcos Ambrose
21. Austin Dillon
22. David Gilliland
23. A.J. Allmendinger
24. Justin Allgaier
TWO LAPS DOWN
25. Jimmie Johnson
26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
27. Danica Patrick
28. Casey Mears
THREE LAPS DOWN
29. Michael Annett
FIVE LAPS DOWN
30. Michael McDowell
31. Cole Whitt
32. Alex Bowman
SIX LAPS DOWN
33. Reed Sorenson, led one lap
34. Landon Cassill
35. David Ragan
SEVEN LAPS DOWN
36. Josh Wise
EIGHT LAPS DOWN
37. Travis Kvapil
38. David Reutimann
39. Kurt Busch, Lap 327, Accident
40. Parker Kligerman, Lap 313, Overheating
41. Dave Blaney, Lap 272, Steering
42. Kevin Harvick, led one lap, Lap 28, Engine
43. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lap 12, Accident