Joey Logano pulled through a late caution to take victory in the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, becoming the seventh different winner in seven races in 2014.
Logano looked a dead cert to take the victory ahead of his Penske team-mate, Brad Keselowski, before Kurt Busch made contact with the wall in turn 2, bringing out the caution just seconds before Logano took the white flag.
A flurry of pitstops ensued as teams looked to set themselves up for a green-white-checker finish, with Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers opting for right-side tyres only, granting them the front row off the restart for the two lap sprint.
Logano got the jump on Vickers from the start, but had to wait a full lap before he could make the move on Gordon into turn 1, eventually winning by a margin of 0.476 seconds.
“We’ve been in contention every race this year to win, and I’m proud to be a part of that,” said Logano. “I felt very confident about this race. For some reason, I told Todd, I said, ‘We’re going to win this week,’ and I was mad when we didn’t get the pole. But I felt like we had a car that could win today.”
“When you’ve got 40-something laps after the last pit stop and a pretty sizeable lead, really, all you’re thinking is, ‘Where’s the white flag?'” he continued. “Brad was able to catch us a little bit and then you go into Turn 1 and see the #41 up against the wall and you’re like, ‘Please, no caution.’ And, of course — boom — it comes out and you’re like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ So you get so mad that you can barely control yourself. Really, I was just so mad.”
Meanwhile, Gordon praised his crew chief Alan Gustafson for making the call to only take two fresh sets of rubber, gaining track position for the green-white-checker attempt.
“I mean, coming in sixth, you’re in that position that you can gamble,” said Gordon, who left Texas with as the new Sprint Cup points leader. “You’re not going to win it with four, you’re not going to win it with none. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off. I got a pretty good restart, so I was happy about that. I got through 1 and 2 and I was shocked I was leading off of 2, to be honest. I’m sure Joey was going to go wherever I didn’t and I probably would have been a little bit better off on the top [of turns 3 and 4]. He crossed over and got into the back of me pretty good. At that point I was just thinking, ‘I want to finish.’ Looked out my mirror, those guys were racing hard behind me. A great second-place finish for me.”
Kyle Busch, who took victory at Texas in 2013, came home to finish in third, while Vickers and Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson rounded out the top five. Keselowski, who looked poised to follow Logano in to a Penske 1-2 before the final caution flew, ended up 15th after being caught speeding on pit road.
A number of big names struggled around the 1.5-mile circuit, with the earliest casualty being Daytona 500 winner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. On the third green flag lap of the race, after starting under the pace car to help dry out the circuit, Earnhardt’s #88 car suddenly speared across the track and into the wall after making contact with the infield grass. Upon impact with the wall, the Hendrick Motorsports machine burst in to flames, forcing the fan favourite out of the race after just 3 laps.
Jimmie Johnson also suffered as a result of Earnhardt’s crash, with a mixture of grass and pieces of tyre rubber slamming in to the six-time champion’s windscreen. He also suffered a flat tyre, dropping him three laps off the lead and only managing to finish 25th at the end of the day.
Kevin Harvick had yet another bad day, this time blowing an engine in the early stages, meaning he has now finished 36th or worse four times since winning the second race of the season at Phoenix. Meanwhile Kurt Busch wrecked twice and drew a pitlane penalty before bringing out the final caution.