Joey Logano qualified fifth for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Richmond International Raceway. Then, his crew found metal fragments in a screen taken from the transmission. Swapping out the gearbox sent the number 22 Team Penske Ford to the rear of the field. However, starting last did not deter Logano from winning his first Cup race of the year. Two-time winner and Penske teammate Brad Keselowski finished second, Denny Hamlin took third. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kevin Harvick claimed fourth and fifth as Ford captured four of the top five positions.
Logano battled Kyle Busch and Keselowski late in the race when the caution flag flew on lap 23. A late caution always presents a dilemma for the crew chief. Pit for new Goodyear tires and give up track position. Or, stay out and try to hold off cars who do come in for fresher rubber. Logano stayed high and cut to put road at the last second. As Busch followed, the late move by Logano caused Bush to miss the pit road commitment line. His penalty for the pit road violation? Busch was sent to the rear of the field, effectively ending his chances at victory. More drama for these two drivers as the rivalry grows hotter each week.
Keselowski, who may have had the better car, trailed Logano coming out of the pits. Six cars stayed on the track, so both Penske drivers lined up behind the first three rows. When the green flag flew on Lap 20, Logano’s fresher tires took him quickly to the lead. Keselowski got caught behind the slower cars and had to work through the traffic for second. Busch fought back to 16th after restarting in the back of the pack.
Kurt Busch finished in eighth. Aric Almirola, in the Richard Petty Motorsports 43 Fusion came in ninth giving the Blue Oval drivers’ six of the top 10 finishing positions.
Kyle Larson continues to lead the playoff points. Logano, Keselowski, and Harvick hold down fourth through sixth. Clint Bowyer in ninth, Ryan Blaney in 12th, Trevor Bayne in 14th, and Stenhouse in 15th put Fords in seven of the 16 playoff positions. Kurt Busch is one point out in 17th and Almirola is four points out in 19th. Both drivers are still within striking position with plenty of racing to go. Next week the series leaves the short tracks for the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.