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Mike Stone

Logano powers past Gordon in wild Monday finish at TMS

Profile image for By Matt Crider / Staff Writer
By Matt Crider / Staff Writer

FORT WORTH — Joey Logano had a comfortable lead and was less than half a lap from taking the white flag Monday when a debris caution flew, setting up an overtime finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

Logano emerged from the ensuing pit stops in third place, but he powered past Jeff Gordon in turn 1 of the last lap and won the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500.

Logano passed Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski for the lead on a restart at lap 226, and their Fords ran 1-2 for much of the remaining 114 laps.

Gordon and Brian Vickers each took two tires on the final stop and came out ahead of the Penske cars, but Keselowski was hit with a speeding penalty and dropped to the back for the two-lap sprint to the finish.

On the restart, Logano and his four fresh tires stalked Gordon’s Chevrolet until he got a run coming out of turn 4. Logano’s No. 22 Fusion moved to the inside of Gordon, who led by inches with one lap to go. Logano pulled ahead in turn 1 and sailed off to win by 0.476 seconds.

“You see the 41 [Kurt Busch] up against the wall and you’re like, ‘Please, no caution. Please, no caution,’” Logano said of the final yellow flag. “Into [turn] 3, my heart dropped and I got really angry instantly.

“You’ve got to go out there and win at that point, and figure out how to do it.”

In doing so, Logano (23 years, 10 months and 14 days) became the youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner at TMS.

“I was able to follow [Gordon] through and get to second and get a good run off 4, cross him over and take the lead,” Logano said. “It’s just awesome. We’ve been in contention every race this year to win these things, and to get this Shell-Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane means a lot.”

Gordon was followed in the top five by Kyle Busch, Vickers and rookie Kyle Larson. Keselowski finished 15th.

“[Logano] got that run off of 4 and he got into the back of me, and I thought I was going to wreck, so at that point I was like, ‘Second would be good,’” Gordon said. “I feel very fortunate to finish second. Joey was the class of the field the second half of the race. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off.”

The fourth Sprint Cup victory of Logano’s career is his first this season, meaning the series has seven different winners in its first seven races. If 15 or more drivers win in the first 26 races, it could take a second victory to guarantee a driver a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff. This is the first season of a new championship format that places the priority on wins rather than points.

Logano led a race-high 108 laps and Keselowski was out front for 85.

“It’s such a tough racetrack and we had plenty of time to think about this for the last couple of days, so it’s a really cool place to win,” Logano said. “They give you a ring, I’ve got guns, I’ve got a trophy, I’ve got a hat, I’ve got a duck call. It’s pretty cool.”

The race was postponed Sunday because of rain, and drying equipment hit the track at 6 a.m. Monday to get the surface ready. The first 10 laps of the race were run under caution, but drivers started pitting because the jet dryers on the track were shooting air into their wheel wells and blowing their hoods and safety flaps up. Keselowski took the most damage and ran the entire race with his hood taped down.

The bizarre start continued, as three laps into green-flag action, Dale Earnhardt Jr. clipped the grass on the frontstretch, blew out a tire and hit the wall as his car burst into flames. The incident also damaged the car of teammate Jimmie Johnson, who pitted several times, ran most of the race two to three laps down and finished 25th.

Denny Hamlin, who won this race on a Monday in 2010, took the lead from Keselowski on lap 122 but committed a speeding violation during a green-flag pit stop and dropped to 14th. He rallied to restart sixth on lap 260 but then faded to a 13th-place finish.

Pole winner Tony Stewart led 74 laps early in the race and passed Matt Kenseth for most laps led all-time in Fort Worth. Stewart has led 801 circuits to Kenseth’s 775.

Gordon jumped to first place in the standings and leads Kenseth by four points, Carl Edwards by 12 and Logano by 24. Earnhardt’s 43rd-place showing dropped him from first to sixth.

Gordon and Kenseth are both winless, but the points leader after 26 races will make the Chase regardless of whether they have a victory.

Logano’s win continued a landmark week for the Penske camp, as team owner Roger Penske was inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame on Thursday. Logano hails from Middletown, Conn., and the Connecticut men’s basketball team played Kentucky for the national championship Monday night in Arlington.

MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906.