Joey Logano

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Martinsville

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Photo by: Brian Lawdermilk

An overnight snowstorm in Virginia postponed the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway to Monday, March 26th – when a veteran’s winless drought that spanned almost six years came to an end.

A young gun with a top team earned his first top-10 of the season, while his teammate overcame obstacles to earn himself a top-10.

This week’s top-5 led laps, overcame being laps behind the leader, and improved their positions from one year ago at the half-mile track.

No. 1 Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer was the underdog coming into the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, but at race end he was the top dog.

Bowyer led more laps at the Paper Clip than the last four years of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. He led 215 laps on Monday, compared to 145 laps from 2014 through 2017.

Bowyer gained the lead on Lap 285 and stayed out front for the remainder of day, with the exception of one lap on Lap 386.

The win is Bowyer’s first since the fall race at Charlotte in 2012, first with Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 14 team. It is the ninth win of his MENCS career.

No. 2 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney led 145 laps on Monday, second to race winner Bowyer, and secured points with a third place finish in Stage 1 and the Stage 2 victory.

Blaney significantly improved his position from one year ago, when he finished in the 25th position.

Blaney sits third in the points standings, 24 points behind new points leader Kyle Busch.

Can Blaney continue the momentum from Martinsville to earn his second career victory at Texas? The Team Penske driver finished 12th in the spring race last year after leading 148 laps.

No. 3 Chase Elliott – Chase Elliott finished ninth at Martinsville Speedway, but it wasn’t an easy finish for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

Elliott, who finished in the 27th position during the fall event after contact with Denny Hamlin, fought to stay on the lead lap through 500 miles, but was the beneficiary of the free pass on two occasions.

Elliott overcame the troubles to earn his third top-10 of 2018. The 22-year-old sits 18th in the points standings, 62 points from 10th and 142 behind Busch.

No. 4 Joey Logano – Joey Logano has been quietly flying under the radar this season. The Team Penske driver has earned five top-10s and two top-5s throughout six races.

Logano finished sixth on Monday. He earned stage points in both stages by finishing in the ninth position.

Logano sits fourth in the standings, 25 points behind Busch. He sits only one point behind teammate Blaney in third.

No. 5 Alex Bowman – Alex Bowman earned his first top-10 at Martinsville, earning a seventh place finish after rain and snow on Saturday was the cause of a Monday double-header.

Bowman has made improvements this season. The Hendrick Motorsports driver sits 14th in the standings, 112 points behind Busch. He is 32 points from Kurt Busch, who is in 10th place.

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Martin Truex Jr. victorious in Las Vegas

NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400

Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski controlled much of the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The two combined for 239 laps led, but when Keselowski decelerated for a potential problem, the win was Truex’s for the taking.

Truex captured the win, but it was overshadowed by a post-race scuffle on pit road. After exiting his vehicle, 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch went straight to the No. 22 pit stall of Joey Logano.

It is unclear if Logano was struck by the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, but after NASCAR officials broke up the exchange Busch emerged with blood on his forehead.

Logano and Busch made slight contact in the final two laps after dodging an off the pace Keselowski. Nevertheless, the contact sent the No. 18 sliding toward the entrance of pit lane. Busch avoided further damage and finished 22nd because of the incident.

“I got dumped,” Busch said afterward, “Flat-out just drove straight into the corner and wrecked us. That’s how Joey races, so he’s gonna get it.”

Logano didn’t seem phased by Busch’s reaction.

“We were just racing hard there at the end,” Logano said, “I was underneath him on the backstretch and he tried to crash me into the corner getting underneath Brad (Keselowski) there and at that point I was just trying get through the corner. I was sideways all the way through and got into him. Nothing intentional.”

“I’ve never had an issue with Kyle,” Logano continued. “Kyle and I have always raced really well together. We’ve never had an issue, but I guess that’s over.”

If Busch sticks to his word, what happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas.

There was much to be celebrated for however, as Truex became the first driver to claim all three stages in a single event.

“We definitely had our share of races where we’ve dominated and gave one away, and it looked like today was going to be another one of those,” Truex said, “The runs just didn’t work out the way we needed them. We were struggling on the really long runs.”

The struggles turned into triumphant in the remaining laps for Truex, who earned his eight career Cup Series victory.

Truex may not have received all the glory despite a dominating performance, but he will take it for what it’s worth. After all, he knows all too well what it feels like to come short of reaching Victory Lane.

“It feels good to come out on the good end for once.”

Joey Logano wins at Michigan

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400

Photo by: Kena Krutsinger

Joey Logano’s strong restarting skills propelled him to his first Sprint Cup victory of the 2016 season during the FireKeepers Casino 400.

Logano led 138 laps and scored his first victory since last fall at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Penske driver pulled ahead of Hendrick Motorsports rookie Chase Elliott on a final restart to become the 10th different winner this season after Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin blew a tire that brought out a caution with 12 laps to go.

“Everyone did a great job of understanding what this package was going to do,” Logano said. “They put together a great race car for me.”

A missed shift by Elliott on lap 154 gave the lead back to Logano and Elliott never recovered to battle for the win at the end. Elliott, however, finished a career-best of 2nd place.

“You can’t do dumb stuff and win these races. Completely my fault,” Elliott said. “The guys gave me a great car today. This whole NAPA group has been working so hard these past few weeks, and that one was on me.”

Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-5.