When the dust settled, Joey Logano was smiling and several of his rivals were fuming.
All in all, just another short-track Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Logano was fourth on the final restart with nine laps to go, but roared past Jeff Gordon, teammate Brad Keselowski, and Matt Kenseth to claim the Toyota Owners 400 and his second checkered flag of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
But as Logano celebrated, Keselowski took exception to Kenseth’s racing in the final laps and brake-checked him on the cool down lap. When they returned to the pits, Keselowski angrily pointed at Kenseth before making a playful leap onto the hood of Logano’s car (which was parked at the time, thankfully).
And while that played out, TV cameras captured another argument in the garage between Casey Mears and Marcos Ambrose. The tiff escalated when Mears grabbed Ambrose by his firesuit and then climaxed with Ambrose punching Mears in the face before the two were broken up.
Ambrose and Mears finished 18th and 19th respectively, which shows just how fierce the tempers can be in Richmond’s tight quarters.
As for Logano’s charge to victory, it was an impressive one.
His big move to the front started with five to go, when he used the inside line to pass Gordon for third in Turn 3. As the leaders headed down the frontstretch, Keselowski got loose and was able to save it but had to give up second to Logano.
Then in Turn 1, Logano hunted down Kenseth on the inside and was able to complete the pass off of Turn 2. From there, it was all academic.
“I’m more surprised than anyone else – this is probably one of my worst racetracks,” Logano said to Fox Sports. “But I guess not today.
“What a crazy finish. I had a really bad restart and I was like, ‘Man, I really screwed up, I’m not going to win.’ And then, once they started battling ahead of me – and [Kenseth] did a real good job of blocking [Keselowski] at the top – we were able to capitalize basically. When they were blocking the top, I was able to get some air on the bottom and then get past.”
Gordon, the Sprint Cup points leader, ultimately finished second at a distant 9.9 seconds behind Logano. Kyle Busch made a late run to finish third ahead of fourth-place Keselowski, and Kenseth was kicked back to fifth at the finish.
Keselowski eventually explained why he took umbrage at Kenseth, who played strong defense for the lead against both Keselowski and Gordon before Logano ultimately got them all.
“I had a shot at winning the race and he ran me off the track, but you race to win and he was definitely racing to win,” Keselowski said. “But you hope that when somebody races to win, they’ll at least win the race if they’re gonna wreck you or run you off the race track.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished seventh, had a front-row seat to the issues on the cool-down lap and tried to figure it all out – at least, for a moment.
“[Kenseth] is mad at [Keselowski] and so, he slammed on the brakes after the checkered. [A.J. Allmendinger] ran into [Kenseth], I ran into [Kenseth],” he said. “That was – I don’t know what that was all about. Get over it [laughs].”
Sound advice from Earnhardt, considering that the monstrous Talladega Superspeedway looms next weekend. That’s definitely not the best place to take revenge on the Sprint Cup circuit.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT RICHMOND – Toyota Owners 400
1. Joey Logano, led 46 laps
2. Jeff Gordon, led 173 laps
3. Kyle Busch
4. Brad Keselowski, led 114 laps
5. Matt Kenseth, led 35 laps
6. A.J. Allmendinger
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led seven laps
8. Ryan Newman
9. Carl Edwards
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Kevin Harvick, led 23 laps
12. Brian Vickers
13. Jamie McMurray
14. Kasey Kahne
15. Greg Biffle
16. Kyle Larson
17. Aric Almirola
18. Marcos Ambrose
19. Casey Mears
20. David Gilliland
21. Justin Allgaier
22. Denny Hamlin
23. Kurt Busch
24. Paul Menard
ONE LAP DOWN
25. Tony Stewart
TWO LAPS DOWN
26. Landon Cassill, led one lap
27. Austin Dillon
28. Alex Bowman
THREE LAPS DOWN
29. David Reutimann
FOUR LAPS DOWN
30. David Ragan
31. Ryan Truex
32. Jimmie Johnson
33. Michael Annett
FIVE LAPS DOWN
34. Danica Patrick
35. David Stremme
SIX LAPS DOWN
36. Travis Kvapil, led one lap
NINE LAPS DOWN
37. Joe Nemechek
10 LAPS DOWN
38. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
39. Josh Wise
40. J.J. Yeley, Lap 380, Engine
41. Cole Whitt, Lap 367, Running
42. Reed Sorenson, Lap 225, Electrical
43. Clint Bowyer, Lap 159, Suspension