Joey Logano can add new title to his name: Daytona 500 champion. Logano won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Sunday, surviving an overtime period to win NASCAR’s most prestigious race. Logano led a total of 31 laps most coming late in race to score his 9th Sprint Cup victory and perhaps the biggest win of his career.
Behind Logano, defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick was second. Last year’s Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson finished fourth and fifth.
The race featured tense breathtaking racing, especially in the closing laps as the field was bunched up three wide and three deep. There was also very little in the way of bent sheet metal as the only multi-car crash occurred on the final lap and sealed the win for Logano. In all there were five cautions the final one setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish.
Polesitter Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson were glued together at the drop of the green flag, but on lap 2 Johnson had the top spot as Carl Edwards and Gordon contested second. Edwards had a clear second on lap 3, but a lap later the three Hendrick cars were back into the top three.
Logano shot to the lead on lap 8 rocketing past Gordon exiting turn 4. Gordon retook second on lap 11, Logano had faded to fourth behind Earnhardt. Gordon won a three wide battle for the lead on lap 14. Johnson was fading after scraping the wall earlier; he was 8th by lap 16. The first caution on the day came out on lap 18 when Landon Cassill lost and engine exiting turn 2. The field came in for the first stops of the day. Most of the front runners took only two ties, wit Gordon beating Logano to the line for the lead. The green came out on lap 24; Gordon led, Logano was second, Earnhardt, Truex Jr, and Edwards rounded out the top five. Gordon went to the front as Earnhardt fell into second the rest of the field was two by two behind. By lap 31 the top 10 were single file.
Caution two came out on lap 41 when Tony Stewart came up and got into Ryan Blaney coming out of turn 4. Matt Kenseth received damage when he got into the back of Blaney. Michael Waltrip also sustained damage. All the cars were able to continue but Stewart who had the most damage. The leaders all came in for stops. Gordon won the race off pit road followed by Logano. The green came back out on lap 45. Logano took the lead with Gordon and Johnson right behind side by side. Stewart remained on pit road for several laps before talking his damaged Chevy to the garage. Gordon retook the lead on lap 52.
The field remained relatively sedate with Gordon leading until green flag pit stops began on lap 86. The leaders came in on lap 87 with the exception of Edwards and Hamlin who came in the next lap. Johnson was penalized for having too many men over the wall a served a pass-through penalty. Edwards got a speeding penalty.
Gordon was back in the front after the sequence Kahne was second. Edwards was 34th, Johnson 36th. Caution three came out for debris on lap 106. The leaders all came in for stops. Most of the leaders took two tires as Gordon came out in the lead, followed by Hamlin; Casey Mears took fuel only can came out in three. The green came out on lap 110. Gordon went to the point as Hamlin fell in behind.
By lap 113 Earnhardt and Logano were fighting for the lead as Gordon began to fall back. Earnhardt got a clear lead the next laps followed by Harvick, and Austin Dillon. By lap 127 the front five had broken away. On lap 144, Truex Jr. became the first to pit as at the front, Logano retook the lead as Earnhardt held on for second.
A large group of the leaders led by Harvick came in for green flag stops on lap 154. The next lap the rest of the leaders led by Logano pitted. Logano was first among that group to lead off pit road and was back in front at the end of the cycle followed by Johnson, Keselowski, Edwards and Hamlin. On lap158, Johnson took the lead with Edwards n second as Logano slipped back. Clint Bowyer led a line on the outside and began to fight for second. A lap later Keselowski lost an engine bringing out caution 4. All the leaders came in for stops. All took fuel only as Gordon led the field off pit road. Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman both received damage as they tired to avoid the fluid from Keselowski; Newman was forced to the garage, McMurray spent considerable time in the pits getting repaired.
The green came out on lap 164; Johnson slipped back as Edwards pulled out to the lead. It lasted only three laps as Johnson got back around on the outside and retook the lead. Soon Earnhardt was back to second and looking to get around for the lead. He fought with Logano, Johnson, Harvick, and Bowyer for the lead. The fight ended on lap 175 when Ryan Blaney lost an engine and brought out caution number 5. The green came out on lap 181. Earnhardt in third dropped out of the lead pack and fell back to 15th.
On lap 187 the lead was contested three wide and seven rows deep. The mash up continued until 8 laps to go when Logano got a clear advantage. A lap later he led Hamlin and Truex in a three car breakaway. With five laps to go the pack was strung out two by two with Logano checking out. But with three laps to go, Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon got together exiting turn 4 bringing out caution number five and setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish. NASCAR soon parked the field and put out the red flag to allow for clean up on the front stretch.
The caution waved after a stoppage of just over six minutes. On the restart Logano took a clear lead as the rest of the lead group battled side by side. The field got the white flag and Logano was holding station when the days largest caused when Gordon was tagged by Austin Dillon exiting turn two. Cars spun and scattered as in front Logano still holding a lead raced his way into turn 3. NASCAR threw the caution and Logano cruised the rest of the lap to victory.
“We got the push that got us out front and that was just Clint pushing hard” Logano said. “He wasn’t lifting before he got to my bumper, he was slamming into the back bumper and that is what we needed to get this Ford out front and here in victory lane.”
Casey Mears was sixth, Bowyer came home seventh, with Truex Jr. eighth. Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10. Jeff Gordon in his last Daytona 500 led a race high87 laps but thanks to the last lap crash finished 33rd.The full results can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s QuikTrip 500. Coverage will be live next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.on Fox.