Jeff Gordon’s bubble of hope in winning the final Daytona 500 of his career burst after being caught in a crash on the last lap of the green-white-checker finish. Gordon, who led for 77 of the 1st 100 laps (and another 10 later in the race), was turning into the middle of the pack when he spun out and slammed into several other cars. Still, he managed to limp through the rest of the race, finishing 33rd, and stated he even “felt good about being able to complete the race,” even after he lost so badly.
In the meantime, Connecticut got its pride on as native son Joey Logano claimed victory in “America’s Greatest Race” with a late surge that sent him past reigning Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick and defending Daytona 500 champ Dale Earnhardt Jr (2nd and 3rd respectively). The win, was not only his first in the race, but served as a sort of vindication for a troubled 2013 in which he was dropped by Joe Gibbs Racing after failing to live up to expectations. He later signed a multi-year contract with Roger Penske in September 2014, and certainly was able to reward his faith in him by delivering the team’s 2nd Daytona 500 win.
“I was so nervous the whole race,” he admitted during an AP interview in Victory Lane. “We worked so hard in the off -season, and this is my weakest race track, the superspeedways. I couldn’t be more proud,” he exclaimed as new bride Brittany Baca looked on.
Logano, 24, began his racing career at the age of 6 in 1996, competing in quarter midgets while still living in Connecticut. He won his first Eastern Grand National Championship in the Jr. Stock Car Division the following year, before moving on with a Jr. Honda Division Championship in 1998 and in early 1999 a Lt. Mod. Division Championship. Logano then won 3 New England Regional Championships in the Sr. Stock, Lt. Mod., Lt. B. divisions in 1999, before his family moved to Georgia where he won a Bandolero Bandits Series Championship. At age 10 Joey began racing Legend cars, setting a 14-consecutive winning streak track record at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, along with a Lions National Championship. Two years later he snagged the Southeast-based Pro Legends National championship.
Logano’s first major NASCAR win came when he took the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway in just his third start in the 2008 Nationwide Series. At the time he became the youngest driver to win a Nationwide Series race at 18 years, 21 days old, beating out. Casey Atwood who held the previous record at 18-years, 313 days in 1999. Joey also became the youngest winner in Sprint Cup Series history when he won the 2009 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at19 years, 35 days. Until then, the youngest winner was Kyle Busch who set the record in 2005 at 20 years, 125 days. Ironically, Busch missed this year’s Daytona 500 after breaking his right leg and left foot during an Xfinity race at the Daytona Speedway just the day before.