Joey Logano won Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway after making contact with Martin Truex Jr. coming to the checkered flag to punch his ticket to the Championship 4.
The duo battled side-by-side over the final 10 laps before the final race to the finish that saw Truex Jr. go sideways while Logano drove away to the win.
“It’s racing, it’s what we have to do to get there. We have to get there first,” Logano said. “We had a great car today. Our pit crew won us the race – they are so fast.
“Some are going to like it and haters are going to hate a little bit but I’m a hard racer. I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone. We’re here to win a championship this year.”
Not surprisingly Truex Jr. was none too pleased with the turn of events.
“That’s short track racing but what comes around, goes around,” Truex Jr. said. “I’m not letting him. I’m going to win the championship.
“Proud of our guys, proud of my team. Everybody said we’re out, said we can’t run good at short tracks, our team’s shutting down, we can’t make it to the championship four, we’re going to show everybody.”
Denny Hamlin was able to slip by to finish second with Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.
Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick completed the first 10 finishers.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now moves to Texas Motor Speedway next Sunday.
How Logano Won: For the first time this season a playoff driver led the most laps with Logano out front for 309 laps. But that doesn’t tell the story because it took some hard driving in the final circuits in a tenacious battle with Truex Jr., that included a great deal of contact, before he was able to make the winning move off the last corner on the last lap to win.
Who Had a Good Day: Hamlin scored his eighth runner-up finish at Martinsville…Truex Jr. has finished top-five in his last three Martinsville races…Kyle Busch scored his seventh straight Martinsville top-five finish…Keselowski had his sixth straight top 10 at Martinsville.
Who Had a Bad Day: William Byron’s rookie season has had some rough luck the last few races and it continued Sunday when last problems took him out of the race and he finished 39th…Kyle Larson hoped to play spoiler Sunday but he had an engine issue that sent him out of the race to a 37th-place finish…Austin Dillon suffered problems that added up to coming home 30th on Sunday afternoon.
What Else Happened: The first two stages and actually the opening 400 laps were relatively tame. But as is the case much of the time at Martinsville especially in the playoffs, things picked up considerably over the final 100 laps. A series of cautions bunched up the field a number of times, which led to tight racing off restarts. But it all boiled down to the last dash to the checkered flag and once Logano and Truex Jr. cleared the pack they battled out to the dramatic finish.
Quotable: “Hey may have won the battle, but he won’t winning the damn war,” Truex Jr. on Logano.
Notable: Logano will advance to the Championship 4 for the third time in his career…Ford has won three of the last four Martinsville races…Suarez scored his first career Martinsville top 10.