By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service April 29, 2018 at 5:54 pm
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Joey Logano led a Ford feast on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, beating Kurt Busch to the checkered flag by .127 seconds to win the GEICO 500, the 10th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season.
Logano led the final 42-of-188 laps, a race-high 70 overall, and controlled the action after a 14-car wreck on Lap 166 thinned the field. Logano led the field to the green flag for the final restart on Lap 172 and stayed out front the rest of the way.
The victory was Logano’s third at Talladega and the 19th of his career, and it broke a dry spell of 36 races dating to the No. 22 team’s victory at Richmond last year, one which incurred a post-race penalty.
“I’m so proud to get this team back in Victory Lane – it’s been a year!” Logano exulted in Victory Lane. “It feels so good to be back in Victory Lane. There is no feeling like this. It feels so good.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been getting consistent. We’ve been scoring points, and we knew a win was just around the corner. I don’t have to worry about the whole playoff thing anymore.”
Logano extended Ford’s winning streak at Talladega to six races. Ford drivers claimed six of the top seven positions, the only exception being third-place finisher Chase Elliott in a Chevrolet.
“What a fast Ford,” Logano said of his No. 22 Team Penske ride. “Teamwork is what did it today. And not just the Team Penske Fords but all of the Fords out there – Kevin (Harvick), Kurt (Busch). We worked really well together. We got a blue oval back in Victory Lane, so proud of that.”
Harvick, the pole winner, came home fourth, followed by defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan and Aric Almirola.
Busch intended to pair with Harvick, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, for a final-lap charge at Logano, but Busch changed tactics when he saw that Stenhouse had a strong run on the next-to-last lap.
“We just needed the assistance from behind,” Busch said. “The 17 car (Stenhouse) was strong. All the Fords were great today. I was hoping he would get to us on the back straightaway so we could go on offense on the front to go win it, but it just didn’t materialize.
“I wanted to stay with Harvick, my teammate, and navigate around the 22, but everyone behind kind of broke off and was racing too hard, and nobody got that big head of steam to try to push through and break apart the 22’s lead.
“It was one of the best Fords I have ever had here, and it was fun to race it and lead some laps and be right there, but I just didn’t get the job done. The 22 outfoxed us, and we didn’t get the push from behind to go on offense at the end – but a top-five day, so I can’t really complain.”
Logano finished second in each of the first two stages – behind teammate Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard, respectively – but in the final stage of the race he took control. Logano had the lead when the second major wreck of the race started in Turn 3 on Lap 166.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson spun in Turn 3 and turned sideways across the nose of Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron’s car, collecting Menard’s Ford in the process. The accident also knocked Keselowski out of the race.
Kyle Busch saw his three-race winning streak end with a 13th-place finish at Talladega. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota was hit with a pit road speeding penalty under caution after the end of the second stage and recovered to run in the top five during the third stage, but he could make little progress after coming to pit road and restarting 18th on Lap 172.