Logano navigates last-lap crash to win The Clash
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Joey Logano saved his best for last in Sunday's rain-delayed Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona.
The driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford took advantage of a last-lap dustup between leader Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski to race to the victory in the season-opening exhibition. The win was Logano's first in nine attempts in the February event at Daytona. Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Danica Patrick, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.
Keselowski and Logano worked with newly minted Ford partner Harvick to break up the foursome of Joe Gibbs Racing at the front of the pack. The group, led by Denny Hamlin for virtually the entire second segment, pulled a page from last year's Daytona 500 playbook by riding single-file and leading the pack around the 2.5-mile oval.
Logano knew the only way to win was to outwork the Toyotas by leap-frogging them one at a time.
"They're so good as a team, you've got to break them up," Logano told Fox Sports 1 after the race. "We showed that Ford was a better team today."
Hamlin led a race-high 48 laps and was in
Hamlin dove low to block, but it was too late. He and Keselowski made contact, spinning the No. 11 Toyota and opening the door for Logano, Busch, and Bowman to dash to the checkered flag.
"There's really not much I could do different to defend, perhaps stay in the middle lane through (turns) one and two," Hamlin said. "He had help from the 22, so I don't think I was in a bad spot. He was there when I came down. He was coming so much faster than what I was, so there was not much I could do to defend.
"We were lined up so well as Toyota teammates, but once those guys started breaking up and leap-frogging, he had
Keselowski and Hamlin flexed their muscle as the cars to beat after starting side-by-side on the front row. A pit road penalty put Keselowski to the rear, while the Toyotas used pit strategy to get track position at the end of the first segment.
"We finally were able to get organized," Keselowski said. "We were stuck in the back, the strategy play cycled the Toyotas to the front and everyone else to the back. It took us forever to dig out of the mud, but finally, Joey and I were able to work together."
The 2012 champ said that while his aggression took away his chance to win, he'd make the same move again given the chance.
"You've got to make the moves. That's how you win the race, you can't be scared," said Keselowski, who led 18 laps from the pole Sunday.
The race was slowed three times for crashes. The first involved Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson on Lap 16. The defending Cup series champ got loose exiting Turn 4, catching Busch's No. 41 in the right rear and sending him head-on into the outside wall.
A little later, Johnson again got loose. This time, there was no car to catch him and he hit the inside wall at pit road entry on Lap 48, ending his day. Both accidents were similar to the wrecks that plagued Hendrick teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Chase Elliott in last year's Daytona 500.
The yellow flew on Lap 60, when Martin Truex, Jr. spun after contact with Kyle Larson, collecting Chris Buescher. Truex came across the nose of Larson's No. 42 entering Turn 3.
After the accident, Larson became the first driver to be parked by NASCAR's new rules, when his team was penalized for too many crew members over the wall to repair a wrecked car. He was forced behind the wall and his car was retired from the race.