Executing a decisive bash-and-run on the next-to-last-lap of Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, Joey Logano wrested the lead from William Byron and ended a NASCAR Cup Series 40-race winless streak dating to March of 2021 at the Bristol Dirt Track.
After Logano gave Byron’s Chevrolet a jolt entering Turn 3 on the white-flag lap, Byron shot up the track into the outside wall and fell back to 13th at the finish.
What do you think of Joey Logano’s move to win at @TooToughToTame?
The #MotorMouths crew will discuss Monday at 6P ET on @peacockTV. pic.twitter.com/3mKhbtsqtP
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) May 8, 2022
Driving a No. 22 Ford sporting the throwback paint scheme of his first quarter-midget racer, Logano beat runner-up Tyler Reddick to the finish line by 0.77s to earn his first victory at Darlington and the 28th of his career.
Logano now has won at least one race in 11 consecutive Cup Series seasons.
“Yeah, you’re not going to put me in the wall and not get anything back,” Logano said, apparently referring to earlier contact from Byron’s car. “That’s how that works. Man, super proud of the Shell-Pennzoil team, getting a victory here in Darlington. You know what it’s like — I’ve never won here in a Cup race before.
“So proud of this race team. Great execution all day long. I’ll tell you what, the coolest thing is getting this car into victory lane. This is the car where it all started for me back in ’95 in a quarter midget. Really, honestly, all the young kids racing out there right now — this could be you.”
An incensed Byron clearly thought Logano crossed the line with his aggressive maneuver.
“We were really close off of (Turn) 2, and I think it spooked him and got him tight, and he was right against the wall, and I got the lead,” Byron said of a restart on lap 268. “He’s just an idiot. He does this stuff all the time. I’ve seen it with other guys.
“He drove in there 10 miles an hour too fast, and with these Next-Gen cars, he slammed me so hard it knocked the whole right side off the car, and no way to make the corner.
“Yeah, he’s just a moron. He can’t win a race, so he does it that way. I don’t know, we’ll… yeah, it was close racing on the restart. We were faster than him. Obviously, at the end the right rear (of Byron’s car) started to go away, and, yeah, he didn’t even make it a contest.”
Justin Haley ran third, followed by Kevin Harvick, who posted his 13th straight top-10 result at the “Lady in Black,” a track record. Chase Elliott started at the rear of the field in a backup car and finished fifth.
A massive wreck off Turn 2 on lap 261 of 293 took out more than a handful of front-running cars and set up the final restart. Martin Truex Jr., who had restarted on the inside of Row 2, lost momentum in the corner and slid back between the Chevrolet of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the Ford of Kevin Harvick.
Truex’s Toyota made slight contact with Stenhouse’s Camaro in the outside — but enough to start Truex spinning sideways. The wreck collected the cars of Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Cole Custer, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney and Elliott, which suffered damage ranging from minimal to terminal.
Ill fortune led to the demise of three of the strongest cars before the race reached the halfway point. On lap 114 second-place starter Kyle Larson brought his No. 5 Chevrolet to pit road and retired with engine failure.
Lap 167 brought the downfall of Kyle Busch, who had led 19 laps. The No. 6 Ford of Brad Keselowski pounded the outside wall in Turn 2 and collected the Toyota of Busch, eliminating both cars from the race.
Ross Chastain collected the second stage win of his career in Stage 2, but his elation was short-lived. Moments after the subsequent restart on lap 196, Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet spun to the inside of Hamlin’s Toyota near the exit of Turn 2 and nosed into the inside wall, ending his race.
“We were fighting the balance all day,” Chastain said. “We were racing with those guys for the lead. I just thought I could run the bottom there off of Turn 2 at the exit of the patch (of new asphalt). I just got loose on the transition and spun out.”
By the time the race ended, 13 of the 36 cars already were in the garage, equaling the number of DNFs last month at Talladega.
Logano’s victory in a Ford kept Chevrolet winless at Darlington since Harvick’s victory there in 2014.