Regular Season Hits Halfway
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on June 4, 2014 | 10:44 A.M. EST
Joey Logano overtook Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon late to win at Richmond. (Photo: Getty Images)
When the checkered flag flew on last week’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Raceway, 13 races of the 26 that make up the schedule prior to the start of the Chase were in the books.
Ten different drivers have won in the year’s opening 13 races with only Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson making repeat trips to Victory Lane.
Since the season began at Daytona, the 2014 season has been marked by a number of memorable moments, highlights and storylines:
Junior Wins Daytona 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr. kicked off the season with a win in the Daytona 500. Earnhardt was able to stay ahead of the field on a final restart with two laps to go to score his second career victory in “The Great American Race.” After a more than six-hour rain delay 38 laps into the race, the event turned into one of the most dramatic and thrilling in Daytona 500 history. Earnhardt snapped a 55-race winless streak dating back to his last victory at Michigan in June 2012.
Harvick Phoenix Winner
Harvick led 224 laps on his way to a dominating win The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick became the all-time Phoenix Sprint Cup Series win leader with five. The victory was his first as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing and with crew chief Rodney Childers. It was Harvick’s 24th career Sprint Cup win and third in his last four Phoenix starts.
Keselowski Doubles Down in Las Vegas
Brad Keselowski completed the sweep of the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he passed Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran out of gas, on the final lap to win the Kobalt 400. The Team Penske driver also won Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
Edwards Prevails in Bristol
Carl Edwards outlasted the field on older tires, leading the final 78 laps, to win the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Roush Fenway Racing driver beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the point for good on a restart with 40 laps to go and went on to score his first win of the season. It was the 22nd career Sprint Cup Series win for Edwards in a race that was delayed 3 hours, 18 minutes by rain. The race also included a somewhat bizarre ending when a mistake by an official in the flag stand, who inadvertently leaned on an override switch, illuminated a bank of the track’s caution lights forcing NASCAR to display the yellow flag with three laps remaining. The caution wiped out a more than two second lead Edwards enjoyed over Stenhouse Jr., but before NASCAR could restart for a green-white-checkered finish, the skies opened up again with rain and the race was declared official.
Kyle Busch Triumphs at Auto Club
Kyle Busch charged to his first win of the season on a green-white-checkered finish in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Busch held off a furious charge from Kyle Larson to score his second straight win at ACS and the 29th of his Sprint Cup Series career. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver became the fifth different winner in the season’s first five races.
Thrilling Martinsville Win to Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch ended an 83-race winless streak when he held off Jimmie Johnson to take the checkered flag in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Busch came back from an earlier race incident with Brad Keselowski on pit road to notch his first win as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch charged by Johnson for the top spot 28 laps from the finish after the race’s final restart only to watch Johnson take the lead back 10 laps later. Busch was able to make another charge as the laps wound down and with 11 circuits remaining made the winning pass.
Logano Lone Star Winner
Logano became the seventh different winner in as many races when he scored the victory in the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Logano was able to easily drive around Jeff Gordon on the last lap of a green-white-checkered finish to take the checkered flag and score his fourth career Sprint Cup Series victory. The Team Penske driver appeared to be well on his way to a dominating win until just before he was to take the white flag when caution flew for a Kurt Busch crash. That sent the frontrunners to pit road and Gordon grabbed the lead with a two-tire stop while Logano opted for four fresh tires. That proved to be the winning move. After the restart, Logano was able to drive around Gordon on the final lap.
Harvick Doubles Up in Darlington
Harvick became the first repeat winner of the 2014 season scoring a victory in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the race’s second green-white-checkered restart to score the win after starting from the pole. Harvick becomes the first driver to win from the pole at Darlington since Dale Jarrett in 1997. Harvick led 238 laps on his way to Victory Lane.
Logano Wins Richmond Battle
Logano came from fourth on the final restart to win his second race of the season in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Logano triumphed in a furious battle over the last five laps with Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski to score his fifth career win.
Hamlin Shines at Talladega
Denny Hamlin scored his first win of the season in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Hamlin was ahead of the field and declared the winner of the race when caution flew for debris from a multi-car accident on the final lap of the race. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had the top spot when the caution flew for a Carl Edwards-Ryan Newman crash with five laps to go. He held the lead on a restart with two laps to go and took the white flag just after another crash erupted. With a large piece of debris sitting on track at the start-finish line, NASCAR displayed caution and the race was over.
Gordon Wins First Kansas Night Race
Jeff Gordon proved better after the final pit stop and went on to score his first win of the season, and third at Kansas Speedway, in the 5-Hour ENERGY 400. Kevin Harvick had one of the strongest cars and was leading before he made his final pit stop but exited behind Gordon and couldn’t get around him the rest of the race, finishing second.
Johnson Wins Again in Charlotte
Johnson passed Matt Kenseth with nine laps to go and went on to score his first win of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Johnson broke a tie with Bobby Allison for the most wins at Charlotte when he took his seventh checkered flag at the 1.5-mile track. In the process he ended his early season drought. The six-time series champion led a race-high 164 laps after starting from the pole and beat Kevin Harvick by 1.2-seconds at the finish.
Johnson Rolls at Dover
Johnson won for the ninth time at Dover International Speedway with a dominating performance in the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks. It was Johnson’s second straight win after his Coca-Cola 600 victory a week ago. He led 272 of 400 laps in a dominating performance.