Joey Logano Literally Beat Martin Truex Jr. to the Flag for First Data 500 Victory
MARTINSVILLE, VA – RIS Joey Logano led the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway four times for a total of 309 laps in his #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, including retaking the lead from Martin Truex Jr. exiting turn four of the final lap with side-by-side bashing, to grab his 20th victory in 360 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and secure one of four spots to compete for the championship at Miami-Homestead. After being bumped by Logano as they approached the start-finish line, Truex Jr slammed the outside wall and then wagged back and forth to slide across the line to finish a disappointing third as Hamlin slipped past for a second-place finish.
Overall, the race was calm during long stretches until the final 100 laps rolled around. There were 12 lead changes among six drivers. For Martinsville Speedway, there were a low number of caution flags indicating the low amount of actual contact. That is, until things heated up coming to the race completion.
Kyle Busch started from the pole position and led the first 30 laps until Hamlin worked his way past his Gibbs teammate exiting turn 4 to then lead laps 31 through 44. On lap 44, caution #1 flew for the #51 of Jeb Burton who scrubbed the turn two wall and damaged the right side of his car. The lead lap cars all pitted at this point. Clint Bowyer was credited with leading lap 45. Kyle Busch had another strong stretch to lead laps 46-115. Logano was running near the front at this point. Caution #2 was brought out for laps 72-76 due to a spin by Jimmie Johnson. The leaders didn’t pit during the caution in order to maintain track position. Kyle remained at the front of the pack until Hamlin overtook Busch to lead laps 116 through 132 when caution three was flown to indicate the end of Stage 1. Caution for Stage 1 lasted for 8 laps. Logano was the first car off pit road and took the lead on lap 133. During this pit period, the !2 of Ryan Blaney was penalized for an uncontrolled tire which mired him back in the pack and ultimately resulted in a 20th place finish as the last car on the lead lap.
This restart after Stage 1 began the long stretch of 227 laps with Logano pacing the race pack. During this string of laps, caution #4 was flown laps 262-269 for the conclusion of Stage 2. Martin Truex Jr worked his way up to Logano and changed the leader board to Martin for laps 360-376. Caution #5 flew during this stretch when #24 William Byron spun in turns ¾. It took 7 laps before going green again on lap 374. Logano showed the strength of the 22 again and led laps 377-418.
The energy level ramped up with less than 100 laps remaining to the flying of the checkered flag. The #2 of Brad Keselowski suddenly emerged as the car to beat as the took the lead on lap 419 and pulled away until lap 459. During Brad’s run of domination, caution #6 was put out when the #66 of Timmy Hill erupted in flames on the backstretch and blocked the entrance to pit road. In addition, the 22 dropped a load of fluid on pit road that required 11 laps under caution to enable racing to resume. Caution #7 was displayed for laps 398 to 414 when the 42 of Kyle Larson became the next car to spew fluid and an abundance of smoke. Massive amounts of fluid had to be removed from turn 4 before more racing could resume.
The surge to the end was on from here to the end. Logano gained back on Keselowski and retook the lead on lap 460. Logano slowly lost his large lead as Martin Truex Jr. moved up to his rear bumper and then slid under the #22 of Logano for lap after lap of side by side action. Then, Truex Jr finally pulled ahead of Logano to lead the penultimate lap of the race and he looked as if he were on his way to victory. But wait. Logano managed to root back inside of the 78 in turns 3 and 4 and they bumped as they exited turn four and headed for the checkered flag. The rear of Truex’s car slid outward and slapped the outside wall and then wagged back and forth as Logano and then Denny Hamlin slipped by for the win and second place finish. Needless to say, Martin Truex Jr. was not happy with his third place finish.
Bubba Wallace was the highest finishing rookie with a 34th place finish in his #43 Pioneer Records Management Chevrolet. Wallace crashed his primary car during qualifying on Saturday and the back-up car just never had any speed during the race.
Kyle Busch leads the point standings by 21 points over Kevin Harvick.
The series goes next to Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2018.
Staff Writer and editor for RIS since 2001. Been attending NASCAR and stock car races since my dad starting taking me in 1960 at the age of 5.