Logano kicks off season with Daytona 500 win

Logano kicks off season with Daytona 500 win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Joey Logano drove to the checkered flag under caution to win the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

« What an amazing moment, » Logano said. « Wow. To win this race is just amazing. I have the best team on pit road, for sure. These guys are awesome. »

It was Logano’s first Daytona 500 victory and ninth career win in his 220th start.

Kevin Harvick finished second and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.

« I thought we were in good shape with the 88 (Earnhardt) behind us, » Harvick said. « I was trying to back up to him to get a run up off of turn four. All in all, it was a good weekend for our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team, and everyone at Stewart-Haas did a great job. I’m really proud of everyone, and we’re looking forward to Atlanta. »

Logano was able to get out in front on a green-white-checker restart after a wreck involving Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon.

« I saw that we were single file the first three cars, and I knew that was a good thing, because it would be harder for them to form a run, » Logano said. « Then I saw them crash in the mirror, but I had a distance to go, and I thought that was good because it was still going to be harder for them to catch up without as many cars in the pack. »

Logano took the white flag in the lead to secure the win as cars wrecked behind him. Jeff Gordon, who led a race-high 87 laps, was among the drivers caught up in the last-lap crash. He wound up 33rd.

« For some reason, I’m still smiling and enjoying every moment of it, » Gordon said after his final Daytona 500. « Obviously, I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second half. What an amazing car we had, just out there in the front with our Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, just controlling the race. »

Johnson restarted with the lead with 35 laps remaining by staying out while others pitted to top off their fuel tanks during a caution. Carl Edwards and Harvick both got by on the restart, but Johnson retook the lead a few laps later.

After a three-wide battle just outside the final 10 laps, Logano got out front by himself with nine laps to go.

« My spotter did a great job giving me the information I needed to get out front and stay out front before that last caution and be able to have a good restart there at the end, » Logano said. « I knew I had the 15 (Clint Bowyer) behind me and Clint Bowyer was the best pusher I could find out there and was able to push me to the lead and I knew I wanted the outside to make sure he was behind me to work up there again. »

Gordon dominated the first half of race after starting on the pole, leading all but 21 laps before heading to pit road during a cycle of green-flag stops on lap 87. He was back up front after the cycle completed.

Gordon was joined by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates throughout his time up front. Johnson started next to Gordon on the front row and led 12 laps early before being shuffled back through the field. He was nabbed later on pit road when his pit crew went over the wall too soon.

Earnhardt was able to keep up with teammate Gordon up front, and they were eventually joined by remaining HMS driver Kasey Kahne.

Gordon drifted back several positions after a lap-107 debris caution, leaving Logano and Earnhardt to battle for the lead. Earnhardt secured the position with 86 laps to go.

Logano, was able to keep up, though, atnd took the lead from Earnhardt with 55 laps remaining. By that time, Johnson was back inside the top five.

Brad Keselowski, Logano’s teammate at Team Penske, blew his engine with 40 laps to go. Landon Cassill also blew an engine early in the race on lap 19, and Ryan Blaney lost his engine in the final 25 laps. Other drivers who had problems included Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, both of whom hit the wall on lap 41 following an early re-start. Stewart remained winless at the Daytona 500 in 17 career starts.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Casey Mears, Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kahne and Greg Biffle.

Brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch were absent from the race line-up.

Kurt Busch was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR competition Friday after ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll was granted a no-contact order from a Delaware family court following allegations of domestic abuse from Busch.

Kyle Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture in his left foot during a crash on lap 111 of the 120-lap NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Xfinity Series regular Regan Smith replaced Kurt Busch, while two-time reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton filled in for Kyle Busch. Smith finished in 16th, while Crafton finished in 19th.

Roger Penske, Logano’s car owner, won the Daytona 500 for the second time as an owner.

« I think Joey managed the race well, » Penske told ESPN. « It showed what a leader he is. »

NOTES: Danica Patrick raced her Sprint Unlimited car in the Daytona 500 after wrecking her primary car in a practice crash Wednesday and a crash in the Budweiser Duel on Thursday. She finished 21st. … The Daytona 500 was the first Sprint Cup Series race without Kurt or Kyle Busch in the field since 2000. … Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson headed into Daytona 500 already with Cup-level race wins during 2015 Speedweeks, with Kenseth winning the Sprint Unlimited on Feb. 14 and Earnhardt and Johnson winning Budweiser Duel races Thursday. … Jamie McMurray also already had a 2015 Daytona win, winning the Rolex 24 sports car race in late January. … Jeff Gordon failed to win in the last eight races in which he led the most laps. … Tony Stewart has 19 NASCAR wins at Daytona but has never won the Daytona 500. He wound up 42nd in the 2015 event. … NASCAR handed out 21 penalties under its new pit road officiating system.

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