Joey Logano proved that four tires are better than four, or at least they were on Monday in the final laps of the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth. After taking four tires to Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers’ two during a caution that preceeded a green-white-checker restart, Logano restarted third, quickly disposed of Vickers and then passed Gordon on the final lap to take the win. With the victory, Logano became the seventh race winner in the seven races, so far, this season.
“It feels good to be back in victory lane, the Chase. I’m stoked,” Logano said. “I felt very confident about this race. For some reason, I thold (crew chief) Todd Gordon — I said, ‘We’re gonna win this week,’ and I was mad when we didn’t get the pole, but I felt like we had a car that could win this thing today.”
Gordon held on to finish second, Kyle Busch also got by Vickers to finish third after starting the race 29th, Vickers dropped to fourth and rokie Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
“That was a great call,” Gordon said. “We lost the handling a little bit when the sun came out. We were looking at about a sixth-place finish, there. We were really happy to see that caution, and I think we learned a lesson in California when we took four there that maybe we would have been better off taking two.”
When the caution came out, Logano was the leader, with his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in second. Everyone on the lead lap pitted during the caution, with Gordon and Vickers getting off pit road first and second after changing only two tires. Logano and Keselowski were the first two off pit road with four, but Keselowski was penalized for speeding on pit road. In the end, Keselowski wound up 15th.
“That last caution was a shame,” Keselowski said. “I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road and wanted to get us out front to be able to win the race and tried a little too hard.”
Logano got by Vickers as soon as the race restarted, and got by Gordon a little over a lap later.
Logano was the lap leader, leading a total of 108 laps, mostly in the last third of the race. Keselowski also spent significant time up front, leading 85 laps, mostly through the middle portion of the race. Early in the race, though, Tony Stewart was a mainstay up front. Stewart started on the pole and led a total of 74 laps early before getting passed for the lead by Keselowski on lap 77. For many of the laps Stewart was up front, Carl Edwards ran second, but both eventually faded, with Stewart falling well outside the top-10 and Edwards falling off the lead lap. Stewart did recover, though, to finish 10th.
The race got off to an unusual start, running the first 10 laps under caution as track-drying efforts continued. During those laps, several drivers, Keselowski included, had an issue with air from the jet dryers blowing car hoods up slightly. Drivers who pitted to fix the problem were allowed to return to original starting spots before the race went green.
Just a few laps later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. misjudged the inner edge of the race track, got in the grass, and his car shot up the track into the wall, catching fire on lap 13. Debris from the incident hit Jimmie Johnson’s car, causing significant damage to the windshield. Earnhardt was retired from the race, while Johnson was able to continue after going several laps down because of time spent on pit road for repairs. Kevin Harvick also had problems early, suffering an engine failure on lap 28.