Vintage Joey Logano Moves Byron for Throwback Win

By Ethan Miller ’23

When Joey Logano was earning his stripes in the first few years of his career, he built a reputation for being aggressive and brash. The take-no-prisoners driver from Connecticut started his time in the NASCAR Cup Series on the wrong side of many drivers and fans with his apathy for the moves he made on track- and the repercussions. It’s worked for him; Logano, now 31, has as many friends and fans as enemies and detractors, but he also has 28 wins and a Cup Series championship (2018) on his resume. I’d call that a worthy trade-off. The driver of the no. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang for Team Penske won his first points race this season at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, wrecking William Byron on the penultimate lap to do so..

Logano started the race weekend strong, winning his first pole of the season. At the start of Sunday’s race, he lost the lead to Kyle Larson. Following an early caution, Logano fought with Larson, Kyle Busch, and Kyle Busch for the lead throughout the opening stage, ultimately getting to the top position for the last 14 laps of the stage to win Stage 1. Ross Chastain won stage 2, continuing his strong start to the season. Logano swapped the lead with Chastain, who would eventually crash, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, and Martin Truex Jr throughout the final stage. A crash by Alex Bowman would bring out a caution late in the race, and on the following restart chaos ensued.

On the restart, Martin Truex, Jr. was forced in between 2 other cars and, exiting turn 2, was spun around in front of the field. 7 total cars were collected, including Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace who both hammered the inside wall. The wreck reset the field, as half the top 10 previous to the crash was now out of the race. Only 23 cars finished the race overall- a true test of patience and attrition. On the ensuing restart, Byron brushed Logano exiting the corner, then drove away from the field.

As the laps wound down, Byron still led, but Logano began to draw closer. With 2 laps to go, Logano reached the back bumper of the 24 car. And entering turn 3, the driver of the 22 car chose to drive right through Byron, smashing his rear bumper and wrecking him into the fence. Byron saved it and avoided a caution, but was only able to nurse his damaged race car across the line in 13th after being in sight of the white flag just one lap prior. Logano claimed the move was retaliation for the aforementioned contact on the previous restart, but Byron disagreed in an interview with Fox Sports following the race.

“He’s just an idiot. He does this stuff all the time. I’ve seen it with other guys….He runs everybody over. I don’t see what’s different. He does it to everybody. Didn’t even let us finish. He goes in (the corner) 10 mph faster. Stupid.”

After Logano crossed the finish line in first, Tyler Reddick followed in second, the 5th time he’d finished runner up in his winless (so far) Cup Series career. Justin Haley finished third in a surprisingly good run for his Kaulig Racing team, and Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott rounded out the top 5. Christopher Bell finished 6th, Michael McDowell finished 7th, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished 8th. Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez grabbed the last 2 spots in the top 10.

Logano’s win locked him into the playoffs, joining Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric as winners for Team Penske this season. After Darlington, 10 different drivers have won a race this season, and with 14 races to go until the playoffs, there’s a chance at having more than 16 winners (the size of the playoff field) before the playoffs start. Next week, NASCAR heads to Kansas Speedway on Sunday, May 15th for the AdventHealth 400.

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