Joey Logano beat Team Penske teammate and race pole-sitter Brad Keselowski off pit road during a caution for debris on Lap 127 and is still at the front of the field at the halfway point of Saturday’s 267-lap Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
It was the second time Logano had beaten his teammate off pit road to assume the lead in the race. But there’s no overlooking the fact that Keselowski dominated most of the first half of the race, leading all but 13 of the first 133 laps.
Keselowski is in pursuit of his second win in the four Sprint Cup races held to date at Kentucky, having won in 2012.
Behind race leader Logano were Keselowski in second, Ryan Newman in third, Kyle Busch in fourth and Kevin Harvick fifth.
Sixth through 10th were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger.
Keselowski had held on to the lead from the start, pacing the field for the first 79 laps.
Kyle Busch, who hoped to earn his second win of the weekend (he won Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series race), started 18th but worked his way into the top 10 fairly quickly.
By Lap 50, Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle were running 26th and 27th, making no progress from their original qualifying spots of 23rd and 24th, respectively.
The first caution of the race came on Lap 29 when Denny Hamlin suffered a blown tire that threw his Toyota into the Turn 4 wall and caused extensive damage to his Camry.
As a result, NASCAR chose to make that slowdown in the action to serve as a scheduled competition caution that was due to come on Lap 30 because of rain that had been forecast for the area (but did not come).
“I didn’t expect that at all,” Hamlin told TNT. I just heard it pop. It was very reminiscent of last year. … I wish we could have seen how far we could have went into the night.”
On Lap 77, rookie Kyle Larson suffered a similar fate to Hamlin, bringing out the caution when his car appeared to lose a tire and wrecked coming out of Turn 1, also sustaining significant damage.
“I blew a right front,” Larson said. “We were hoping for a big points day before we go to Daytona, where it’s a real crap shoot.
“Oh well, we’ll go to Daytona and try to rebound and gain some more points. … I guess I just used up my tires too much.”
On the resulting pit stop, as he has several times already this season, Kevin Harvick – who won Friday’s Nationwide Series race – once again was victimized by costly mistakes by his pit crew. He came onto pit road in second position, but a dropped lug nut extended Harvick’s stay in the pits and he exited 16th.
Also under that same caution, Keselowski lost the lead for the first time of the evening when Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano beat Keselowski out off pit road.
Logano led five laps under caution but Keselowski regained the lead spot for nearly a lap before Logano took back the advantage. Keselowski then bounced back on Lap 88 and once again began the same kind of domination he showed in the first 79 laps around the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
The third caution of the night occurred on Lap 127 for debris. Logano once again emerged in the lead, while Keselowski left pit road having dropped from the race lead to fourth.
Also on that stop, Jeff Gordon suffered a rare air gun failure, dropping him from seventh to 24th.
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