Joey Logano Snaps Year-Long Drought at Talladega Superspeedway With Geico 500 Win
Logano and Team Penske claim their first victory as a unit in 2018.
Team Penske survived the anarchy at Talladega by placing its No. 22 car of Joey Logano on top of Sunday's 500-mile race. The premier-series race was highlighted by second-half action with unending battles for the lead, gutsy strategy calls, and, of course, destruction.
Kevin Harvick's start from pole allowed the Stewart-Haas driver key position to shoot for win number four of the year as he was accompanied by teammate Kurt Busch on the front row. The 17-year veteran held the lead for 12 laps before he opted to pit, swapping spots with Alex Bowman who was promptly followed by William Byron and Bubba Wallace Jr. This formation held deep into the first stage as Harvick was joined in the pits by a handful of frontrunners, though Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski—a five-time winner at Talladega—nudged his way to first to claim the session.
The race ran under the green flag for the entirety of Stage One and continued on to the second. Byron pressed, as did Chip Gannasi Racing's Jamie McMurray, for a more permanent spot at the top of the board. However, as McMurray dropped to the midfield, he was involved in a Lap 73-incident which conclusively retired Trevor Bayne, Erik Jones, and Kyle Larson. The CGR driver was able to recover, albeit with a heap of laps lost to the lead. Martin Truex Jr. also suffered from the incident.
Stage Two persisted to provide the drama we're used to at 'Dega with seemingly-constant overtaking between Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Paul Menard. Cluttered pit lanes brought on penalties for a slew of drivers, causing a stir that continued on-track for those who had been bumped to the rear. Between that, the crash, and the ever-present draft-fest, drivers clearly became more engaged near the halfway point. While Logano managed to become the ninth different leader of the day on Lap 76, he was promptly trumped by Menard who completed the second round on top—his first career stage win.
Menard elected to pit upon the restart and made way for two-time Talladega victor Logano once again. A soldiering drive allowed two of his Penske teammates (Keselowski and Ryan Blaney) in the top four, showing the American staple's worth at the most popular track on the circuit. Later charges brought Harvick and fellow SHR driver Aric Almirola up from behind to boot. With under 40 laps to go, the cliché constructed itself by blowing things wide open for the series' top teams.
As the universe would have it, though, the track aptly sorted things out when "The Big One" came around on Lap 167. Initial chaos starting with Jimmie Johnson triggered what eventually became a 14-car incident and a batch of drivers flooding the pits. Resulting retirements included Clint Bowyer, Keselowski, and Menard, among others. Upon the sixth restart, Logano, Harvick, and Kurt Busch were one, two, and three.
The top trio endured the closing 10 laps with Ricky Stenhouse and Chase Elliott floating behind them. Logano relied on his spotter T.J. Majors to keep an eye on the rest of the field which went two-wide from top to bottom, making passing especially difficult. Stenhouse traded blows with Elliott, the latter still fighting for his first Cup series win. Harvick and Busch traded places with two laps to go and the final push was on when the white flag waved. Logano decisively completed the 188-lap race in the lead and drove his Blue Oval Penske to Victory Lane for the first time since Richmond in April 2017.