RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Joey Logano had a great view of a wild finish, until he saw an opening and made it wilder.
Logano took advantage of a three-car duel by sneaking below a trio of former champions to take the lead Saturday night, outrunning former champions Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski to win at Richmond International Raceway.
Logano’s first career victory on the 0.75-mile oval came seemingly from nowhere after a restart with nine laps to go. He sat fourth and on the outside with Kenseth leading, Dale Earnhardt Jr. alongside in second and Gordon, the dominant car for most of the night, on the inside in third, in prime position to move underneath the leader and grab the victory.
Instead, when Gordon, Kenseth and Keselowski raced in a triangle jockeying for position, Logano went underneath all three with three laps to go and then held off Gordon for his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.
“I’m more surprised than anyone else here,” Logano said. “This is one of my worst tracks. … What a crazy finish.”
Gordon said the three-way battle helped create the opening for Logano.
“I was really just trying to battle with those guys to get the best finish that we could,” Gordon said. “(Logano) was in a great position while we were all sitting there sliding around battling it out. To come home second is still a great finish.”
Logano joined Kevin Harvick as the only drivers with more than one victory this season, which also locks them into spots in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship over the final 10 races of the season.
Kyle Busch, never in contention, rose to finish third, followed by Keselowski and Kenseth.
“That last restart was intense. … I just drove by everybody,” Busch said.
Kenseth and Keselowski had words post-race.
“I had a shot at winning the race and felt like he ran me off the track,” said Keselowski, who was fifth on the final restart, but had the fastest car on short runs all night. “You race to win and he definitely was racing to win, but you hope when somebody races to win that they at least win the race if they’re going to wreck you or run you off the race track.
“It was just a mind-boggling move to me, but I made sure I got him back and made sure my teammate could win the race. … I thought it was uncalled for. … Just got to put that in the bank and remember it,” Keselowski said.
Gordon said Kenseth was just doing what he needed to do to try and hang on.
“I think Matt did what he thought he had to do to win,” Gordon said. “He started making his car real wide. He probably didn’t make the guys behind him real happy.”
Kenseth had come from nowhere after lurking in the back of the top 10 all race long, suddenly charging through the field and passing Gordon to grab the lead with 38 laps to go. It was his first lead.
“I was trying to win the race. I think that’s what all five of us were trying to do,” Kenseth said.
Gordon, who led 173 laps, and teammate Earnhardt both seemed poised to challenge at the end, but after the final restart, Team Penske teammates Logano and Keselowski became the ones to watch.
Their cars had easily been the fastest on fresh rubber all night, so much so that Gordon said, “I just had to let the 2 and the 22 go right by me because they were so fast” on fresh tires.
Signs of the wild ending may have come very early.
Clint Bowyer started third and hoped a return to one of his best tracks would allow him to put last September behind him. That was when Bowyer’s intentional spin late in the last race before the playoffs jumbled the finishing order, and the drivers who made the Chase, leading to a NASCAR investigation.
Instead of a clean run, Bowyer hit rookie pole-sitter Kyle Larson on the opening lap, sending Larson spinning. He also twice pitted under a green flag, right before a caution flag came out, and was battling Danica Patrick for 38th place when a fire in his engine ultimately caused him to park for the night.