Late Saturday

Joey Logano in uncharted territory after second Sprint Cup win

jutter@charlotteobserver.comApril 27, 2014 

— In nine weeks this season Joey Logano has already gone where he never has before in his NASCAR career.

And he’s not done yet.

“We’re going to have some fun,” said Logano, who passed leader Matt Kenseth with three of 400 laps remaining in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway to earn his second Sprint Cup Series victory of the season.

“At this point we really have nothing to lose, it’s all about going for wins and having fun out there and making sure we’re ready for when the Chase starts.”

Logano became just the second driver with more than one win this season – Kevin Harvick is the other – and did so by winning his first Cup series race on a short track. He also had never won more than one Cup race in any of his previous five seasons in the series.

Logano’s victory was all about good timing – his No. 22 Ford was best on short runs, and a blown engine for J.J. Yeley brought out a caution on Lap 386, which set up a nine-lap dash to the finish.

Logano restarted fifth, and while leader Matt Kenseth worked feverishly to hold off the charge from Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon, Logano dove around the trio for the lead.

Gordon ended up second, Kyle Busch third, Keselowski fourth and Kenseth fifth.

“I was able to see what was in front of me and wanted to make sure I was close enough when something happened I was able to take advantage of it, and that’s what I was able to do,” Logano said.

“It comes down to the end of the race. Patience is out the window. It’s all about ‘just go for it’.”

While Logano drove away to victory, the fallout from the three-driver battle for the lead continued.

Keselowski was incensed with a blocking move made by Kenseth to retain the lead and slammed into Kenseth’s car on the cool-down lap in an incident that also collected Dale Earnhardt Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger.

“The 20 (Kenseth) ran me off the race track so I made sure to give him a bump and that was what Joey needed to win the race,” said Keselowski, Logano’s teammate at Team Penske.

Kenseth seemed perplexed by Keselowski’s reaction.

“We were racing for the win. I had to drive in there and try to give (Keselowski) the slide job. I was trying to watch both lanes and I was trying to win the race,” Kenseth said.

“I think that’s what all five of us were trying to do up there.”

Up front wasn’t the only heated battle, apparently.

In the garage after the race, Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears – who finished 18th and 19th – got into a heated confrontation. Video from Fox Sports shows Mears shoving Ambrose at one point, followed by Ambrose punching Mears in the head.

As Ambrose walks away from the incident, the video shows a crew member with an Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines uniform sucker-punching Ambrose from behind.

Late Saturday night, NASCAR officials said they were investigating the incident and would review video.

Gordon, who led the most laps in the race (173), again came up short in his quest for his first victory of the season, but retained the series points lead.

“Joey was in the right place there. He had a good short-run car and we were battling it out,” Gordon said. “Matt was making his car really super-wide, which you’ve got to do to try to win and we were just all battling hard.”

Logano said he is looking forward to more such battles this season.

“This is so cool to win two races already this season. I want to start winning some races in the Chase now,” he said. “These cars right now are so good. I am just the lucky guy that gets to drive these things.”

Utter: (704) 358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

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