Joey Logano held on to the lead for the final laps of the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, earning his first NASCAR Cup Series victory in almost exactly a year on Sunday.
The victory came almost a year to the day of his win at Richmond last season on April 30. Even that win was soured, however, as his car failed inspection, causing him to lose the points and other benefits of the win, a penalty that ultimately cost him a playoff spot.
Little Drama at Finish Line
This time around, Logano held off a pack of challengers on what turned out to be a rather mundane finish for a restrictor plate race. While multiple drivers from Stewart-Haas Racing were right behind him late, they weren�t able to coordinate their efforts to take down the leader, allowing Logano to hold on to first place from out front � a rare feat at Talladega.
Kurt Busch tried to make a move early on the final lap, but wasn�t joined by defending Talladega champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Kevin Harvick. The result was a surprisingly easy finish for Logano.
�If they got to the outside of me, I was hosed,� Logano said after the race. �I would have gotten passed by pretty much the whole train. I would have lost so much momentum. I knew they were going to work together, as they should. Once they got picked apart, I think that was the game changer.�
Logano Benefits from Lack of Coordination
Harvick ultimately thought that Kurt Busch made his move a bit early, which ended up making it impossible for the chase pack to track down the leader.
�I was hoping we would stay in line a little bit longer,� Harvick said after the race. �But [Busch] kind of hung us out to dry a lot sooner than I thought we would go and would up shuffled out there on the bottom.�
Busch would ultimately finish in second place, ahead of Chase Elliott, Harvick, and Stenhouse, who rounded out the top five.
While some might have seen the lack of a dramatic conclusion and a relatively low number of lead changes as pointing to a boring race, Team Penske owner Roger Penske disagreed.
�I kind of like it when the cars, you don�t just go out there and you stand on the gas and you go out there all day,� Penske said. �It puts the real drivers in the driver seat and the ones who have experience, and I think you saw that. I thought it was a good show.�
Following the victory, Logano now sits second in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, 30 points behind Kyle Busch, who had won three straight races heading into Talladega.
The timely win also kept Logano in the mix for a series championship. At Marathon Bet, Logano is posted at 10/1 to win the NASCAR Cup Series this year, putting him firmly among the contenders. He does sit far behind Harvick (11/4), Busch (9/2), and Martin Truex Jr. (4/1), who remain the favorites to earn the overall series championship.