<
>

Joey Logano takes advantage of last-lap wreck to win Clash

Joey Logano cruised to victory after avoiding last-lap drama in the Clash. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A largely uneventful Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona came to life in the closing stages, with Team Penske's Joey Logano taking the win after Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin crashed while disputing the lead on the final lap.

Penske teammates Keselowski and Logano had fresher tires on their Fords in comparison to those on Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, allowing Keselowski to make an aggressive move to the inside of Turn 1 just after taking the white flag. Hamlin turned down to block, but he veered too late, causing the cars to tangle and spin toward the apron.

Logano darted to the outside to clear the unfolding wreck, followed by Kyle Busch (JGR Toyota) and Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet). Busch thought he had a shot at battling Logano for the win, but side-to-side contact with Bowman prevented him from making a charge.

"The Toyotas are so selfless; they do such a good job working together and think of one car winning," said Logano. "We had to think the same way as Ford and with the Stewart-Haas and Penske cars. We were able to get a good enough run to work together enough to break them up and make the passes, and then there at the end, it was kind of a mess.

"I could see the block was coming way too late and it wasn't going to work," he added. "It was pretty plain what was going to happen -- I knew they were going to crash -- so I just headed to the top. Everything was going on, and I was just in the right place at the right time."

The four Gibbs Toyotas made the strategic call to pit at the end of the 25-lap first segment, hoping to stretch their fuel and tires through the full 50-lap second segment.

They got the cautions they needed (four for a total of 16 laps) to make the necessary fuel mileage, but by pitting under yellow for tires with 23 laps remaining, the Penske cars may have gained the crucial edge.

Running in tandem with SHR's Kevin Harvick in his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in a Ford, Logano finally led the Penske duo past a logjam headed by Jamie McMurray's Chevrolet on Lap 68 of 75 to get in position to break up the Toyotas running single file at the front of the field. Keselowski emerged as the lead Ford on the 71st lap.

Keselowski feinted to the outside of Logano entering Turn 1 on the final lap before switching to the inside lane. Hamlin tried to block but initiated the contact that dropped him from first to 11th place at the flag. Keselowski finished sixth.

"You do everything you can to stay in front," Hamlin said. "But I think he had such a head of steam, there was not a whole lot I could do. Maybe try to hold my lane, but I was afraid he was going to clear me and that was it. He had help from the 22 [Logano], and I was in a bad spot there.

"It's the last lap of an all-out race, and that's usually what you're going to get."

Keselowski, who scored wins at Daytona and Talladega in 2016, has emerged as one of NASCAR's best restrictor-plate racers. He and Logano claimed three of the four plate races for Penske and Ford last year, with Hamlin taking the Daytona 500.

"Made a little contact there, and I feel bad for everybody," Keselowski observed. "I think it was going to be a heck of a finish down the stretch with Denny and me side by side. It just didn't work out that way."

Instead, Logano was the Penske driver celebrating in Victory Lane.

"It's a momentum-builder, that's what it is," Logano said. "It knocks the rust off everybody. Team Penske and [engine builder] Roush-Yates brought the heat, and it's a great start to Speedweeks for Team Penske."

Delayed for about 15 hours by rain and run in daylight instead of at night, this year's Clash failed to produce the kind of big multicar crash that has become synonymous with the exhibition event. Four other drivers wrecked in smaller incidents, including Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who crashed out of the Clash for the sixth consecutive year.

Although it was not an official Cup race, Danica Patrick's fourth-place finish was a career-best in the series.