Talladega Race Wrap: Logano takes Talladega to snap year-long drought
For the first time in 364 days, Joey Logano pulled into victory lane after a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race.
The 27-year-old snapped a 36-race winless streak, dating back to Richmond last April. Following that win, Logano's No. 22 failed teardown inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center, with Logano holding the notorious distinction of being the first Cup Series driver to miss the playoffs due to the now-extinct "encumbered" finish.
"It's been a long time coming," Logano told FOX after the race. "We've been getting consistent, scoring points, but we knew the win was right around the corner. Don't have to worry about the whole playoff thing anymore, we're in. It just feels so good."
How Logano won the race: Logano grabbed the lead from Kasey Kahne with 42 laps left Sunday and kept his Shell/Pennzoil Ford on the point the remainder of the way.
With two laps to go, Kurt Busch, running third behind Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, jumped to the outside exiting Turn 2. After getting around Harvick, Busch was unable to get the necessary momentum to work his way around Logano, trailing the 22 to the line by a little over one-tenth of a second.
Since May of 1992, only three times has the winner at Talladega led at least 40 laps at the end of the race. Logano's done it twice! To do something the great Dale Earnhardt never did at Talladega—and do it twice—is nothing to sneeze at.
Restrictor plate prowess: Everytime the circuit rolls into Talladega, it seems that the only thing that's for sure about the 2.66-mile superspeedway is nothing's for sure.
And while much of the focus at restrictor plate tracks is on Logano's Penske teammate Brad Keselowski (6 wins since 2012), Joey Logano has established a pretty strong resume at Daytona and Talladega.
Sunday's win marked Logano's fourth plate race triumph since 2015, and third at Talladega. Logano has led at least 10 laps in five of his last six starts at Talladega. Keselowski and Logano have combined to win five of the last six races at Talladega.
Thanks, Dale! And speaking of which, Logano was quick to thank his new spotter TJ Majors for his success Sunday. Majors, of course, was the spotter for Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 2008 until he retired after 2017. The pair combined for three restrictor plate wins at Hendrick Motorsports, including the 2014 Daytona 500.
"Thanks to Dale for retiring so I could get him," Logano joked.
Majors, along with Joey Meier, spotter for Brad Keselowski, are two of the most talkative and informative spotters during the plate races, giving their drivers the vital info they need to keep their cars at the front. It's just one of the many reasons the Team Penske cars are near the front of the pack on the superspeedways.
Fantastic Ford: With Logano's win, the blue ovals have now won six in a row at Talladega, a streak dating back to Logano's win in the fall of 2015.
It's the longest streak for a single manufacturer at Talladega since Chevrolet won 13 straight from 1999-2005. Fords led 126 of 188 laps and swept the stages with Paul Menard earning his first career stage win and Brad Keselowski earning his fourth stage win of 2018.
When the checkered flag flew, Fords held six of the top seven spots. The cohesion of the Ford boys left third-place finisher Chase Elliott scratching his head at the end of the day.
"I got to the end and those guys around me were working together so much," Elliott said. "I thought one of them wanted to win a little worse than what they did. They were being very patient with one another and I was surprised by that. If it was me, I feel like I would've wanted to try."
Chase Elliott surprised with "patient" final lap. pic.twitter.com/UdlbmRKchG— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 29, 2018
Fun while it lasted: Kyle Busch's winning streak came to a screeching halt with an uneventful 13th-place finish. Busch started 19th and never really challenged for the lead during Sunday's race.
After taking the win at Richmond, Busch said he felt he'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than Talladega. He may want to invest in a couple Powerball tickets just to be safe. .
We had two 'Big Ones': With drivers racing just inches apart at speeds up to and exceeding 200 mph, disaster is always just one slip-up away during restrictor plate races.
The first pileup came on Lap 73, when Erik Jones caught the apron in Turn 2, sending his No. 20 into Jamie McMurray before spinning into Trevor Bayne. Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. were also caught up in the melee.
The second and even bigger one came with 22 laps left. Jimmie Johnson appeared to get loose on the outside of William Byron, coming across the nose of the No. 24. With both drivers running in the top 10, 14 drivers were swept up in the crash, including Keselowski, Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer.
The fact that every driver involved in a crash Sunday walked away unhurt is a testament to NASCAR's commitment to safety and the craftsmanship of the fabricators for every race team in the garage.
Social spotlight: Sunday was the first time Joey Logano went to victory lane as a dad in NASCAR's top series. He celebrated alongside wife Brittany and infant son Hudson on the first of what we can only expect to be many trips to winner's circle for young Hudson.
After the race, Logano joked that Hudson probably has a future as a race car driver because he "cries a lot. He'll fit right in here."
We're not going to touch that one!
Bummed out Busch: Kurt Busch has seemingly done everything except win at Talladega.
Before the race even started Sunday, Busch experienced another first: he had no communication with his team. After swapping out his helmet and steering wheel, Busch took his starting spot on the front row. On the first round of green-flag pit stops, he was caught speeding, taking him out of the top five.
After battling back to the front again, Busch found himself ready to make a move with two to go, passing Kevin Harvick on the backstretch. That was all Busch could muster over the last lap-and-a-half, leaving him with a second-place finish. The 2004 champ is now 0-for-35 at the massive superspeedway, and took ownership of not getting it done despite having a fast car.
"I just got out-foxed," a dejected Busch told FOX. "I didn't quite make the right move and it's a shame as it was one of the best Fords I've ever had."
Busch said his original plan was to stick with Harvick, but when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went to the top, he felt it was his only chance.
"Kevin was in good position. I was going to roll with him in any direction that I could," Busch said. "We just got broken up by Stenhouse. Man, it's just so close. You wish you could go over and do it again. I feel like I left that one out on the table."
Bloomin' Monday: Kevin Harvick's fourth-place finish means we all win Monday at Outback Steakhouse. All you have to do is go to your local Outback, tell them you're there for Bloomin' Monday and they'll bring you a fresh Bloomin' Onion for free!
Looks like it's time to call it a day! ??? Your FREE Bloomin' Onion, with any purchase, awaits at Outback on Monday, April 30th. pic.twitter.com/WSlkHtyDB6— Outback Steakhouse (@Outback) April 29, 2018
Next week: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes the first of two trips to the concerte canyon at Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Last year, Jimmie Johnson tied Cale Yarborough with his 83rd win and record 11th at Dover. With Chevrolet still trying to get their arms around the new Camaro, Sunday's race will give us an idea of just how close they are to contending week in and week out. And the Xfinity Series wraps up its Dash 4 Cash series OneMain Financial 200. Elliott Sadler will be gunning for his third straight $100,000 bonus with no Cup regulars in the field.