JOY Logano won a thrilling Daytona 500, holding off Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr in one of the most closely-fought finishes in the race’s history.A crash on the final lap of the two-lap dash to the finish sealed the biggest win of the 24-year-old Team Penske driver’s career.
“I can’t believe it, this is absolutely amazing,” Logano said in victory lane. “Daytona 500 … oh my god!”
“I was so nervous the whole race, pretty much. We’ve worked so hard over the off season. This is our weakest racetrack, the superspeedways. This is unbelievable … the Daytona 500!”
The leading pack lapped the high-banked speedway three-wide for much of the final 10 laps, before a 18-car breakaway emerged with five laps to go, led by Joey Logano.
The Penske Racing driver continued to lead as the white flag neared, while the group frenetically chopped and changed behind him.
However, a crash involving Justin Allgaier, whose car had started to smoke on the preceeding lap, and Ty Dillon with three laps to go brought out the red flags, setting up a two-lap, green-white-chequered dash to the finish.The race resumed after a seven-minute stoppage, with Logano and Denny Hamlin leading the field down to the green flag.
Logano and Clint Bowyer led the restart early, before Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr surged up to the rear of Logano’s Ford as they took the white flag.
But it was all for naught; Austin Dillon and Jeff Gordon, the polesitter and leader of 87 laps in his final Daytona 500 start before retirement, collided on the backstretch on the final lap, triggering a multi-car crash and sealing Logano’s victory.
The win is Roger Penske’s second in NASCAR’s most prestigious race, ‘The Captain’ acting as Logano’s spotter and helping guide his driver to victory. The win comes one week before Penske heads to Adelaide to be present for the first V8 Supercars race for DJR Team Penske.
Perennial favourite Tony Stewart’s hopes of breaking his Daytona 500 duck ended before quarter distance, a crash involving Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney and a handful of other cars leaving his car heavily damaged.
Despite repairs that allowed him to briefly return to the track, Stewart’s 17th attempt at the Great American Race ended after 72 laps.
2013 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski’s race also ended early, his Ford’s engine blowing with 40 laps remaining.
The race took place without either of the Busch brothers. Kyle was injured in a hard crash in the closing stages of Sunday’s XFINITY Series support race, sustaining a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a left foot fracture.
Elder brother Kurt was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Saturday, after court proceedings found he was likely to have committed “an act of domestic violence” against former partner Patricia Driscoll last year.
RESULTS — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rd. 1, Daytona 500 (200 laps)
1. (22) Joey Logano (Ford) 203 laps
2. (4) Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet) 1.006s
3. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr (Chevrolet) 1.193s
4. (11) Denny Hamlin (Toyota) 1.761s
5. (48) Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet) 2.102s
6. (13) Casey Mears (Chevrolet) 2.578s
7. (15) Clint Bowyer (Toyota) 2.779s
8. (78) Martin Truex Jr (Chevrolet) 3.167s
9. (5) Kasey Kahne (Chevrolet) 3.340s
10. (16) Greg Biffle (Ford) 3.373s
11. (38) Cole Whitt (Ford) 3.573s
12. (9) Sam Hornish Jr (Ford) 3.765s
13. (46) Michael Annett (Chevrolet) 4.141s
14. (3) Austin Dillon (Chevrolet) 4.239s
15. (43) Aric Almirola (Ford) 4.646s
16. (41) Regan Smith (Chevrolet) 8.236s
17. (34) David Ragan (Ford) 8.317s
18. (83) Johnny Sauter (Toyota) 8.612s
19. (18) Matt Crafton (Toyota) 9.992s
20. (47) AJ Allmendinger (Chevrolet) 12.213s
21. (10) Danica Patrick (Chevrolet) 12.471s
22. (35) Cole Whitt (Ford) 13.696s
23. (1) Jamie McMurray (Chevrolet) 17.234s
24. (19) Carl Edwards (Toyota) 17.301s
25. (55) Michael Waltrip (Toyota) 17.410s
26. (32) Bobby Labonte (Ford) 17.430s
27. (27) Paul Menard (Chevrolet) 19.941s
28. (33) Ty Dillon (Chevrolet) 23.167s
29. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr (Ford) 23.632s
30. (6) Tervor Bayne (Ford) 30.003s
31. (95) Michael McDowell (Ford) 32.673s
32. (44) Reed Sorenson (Chevrolet) 50.105s
33. (24) Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) 1m08.921s
34. (42) Kyle Larson (Chevrolet) 202 laps, crash
35. (20) Matt Kenseth (Toyota) 202 laps
36. (66) Mike Wallace (Toyota) 199 laps
37. (51) Justin Allgaier (Chevrolet) 197 laps, crash
38. (31) Ryan Newman (Chevrolet) 184 laps
39. (21) Ryan Blaney (Ford) 175 laps, engine
40. (2) Brad Keselowski (Ford) 160 laps, engine
41. (23) J.J. Yeley (Toyota) 153 laps
42. (14) Tony Stewart (Chevrolet) 72 laps, crash
43. (40) Landon Cassill (Chevrolet) 18 laps, engine