It was a madcap last lap at the Advance Auto Parts Clash, with Joey Logano coming out of the smoke in first place at the Daytona International Speedway to start the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season off with an exciting finish. The special non-points event was postponed from Saturday night to Sunday morning due to rain.
NHRA’s Courtney Force lead the field, driving the pace car to the green flag where the tempo quickly picked up until lap 17, when Kurt Busch was taken out by an ill-handling Jimmie Johnson. Johnson later fell out on his own after spinning on lap 49 into the inside wall off turn four. The last yellow flag occurred on lap 61, when Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Larson crossed paths, setting up an 11-lap green flag run to the finish.
On the restart, the Joe Gibbs Racing teams had the top four spots, with Logano in sixth and Keselowski in eighth. The Penske duo charged to the outside lane, using the side drafting technique to rapidly move up to the front with four laps to go.
It all came down to the white flag when Logano moved to the bottom lane, drafting in to assist his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski with a push to go after leader Denny Hamlin as the pack entered turn one. When Keselowski drove to the inside, Hamlin blocked, running his Toyota into Keselowski’s Ford and leaving a clear track for Logano to go to the high side with a lead that he never relinquished.
He brought along to the finish Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and Danica Patrick, all in hot pursuit. He held them off by 1.12 seconds, winning with an average speed of 143.831 mph.
“That was the play,” Logano said of the side-drafting strategy which gave team owner Roger Penske his third Clash win and Logano’s first. “The Toyotas are so selfless, I guess is the way to look at it. They’re able to work together and think of one car winning, and they are really good at that.
“We had to think that same way as Ford (drivers), and the Stewart-Haas and the Penske cars 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. Everything was going really fast, and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
It was the first Ford win in the Clash since 2004, when Dale Jarrett drove to victory.
Up next for the Monster Energy Cup Series is the Can-Am Duals on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Daytona starting at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.