Joey Logano led the most laps, and he made the right move when it counted, as he passed Brad Keselowski on his outside on the final lap to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 19. It’s the defending series champion’s first win of the season and his first at Atlanta.
“First off, this is a special win at Atlanta for me. So many memories of me and my Dad racing on the quarter mile, and this is full circle for us. So many memories gritting over there with the legends cars, racing and having a big time. Dreaming of going straight from the quarter mile and going on to the big track.
“To finally win here means so much to me personally. This AutoTrader Mustang was an animal. It was very fast and was able to lead a lot of laps. Huge victory, a great day for us,” Logano told FOX Sports.
He also had very high praise for his spotter, Coleman Pressley.
Keselowski led 29 of the final 30 laps but he had to settle for a runner-up finish, his best result since joining RFK Racing. Christopher Bell was the highest Toyota in third, while Corey LaJoie recorded a career-best Cup finish of fourth. Tyler Reddick completed the top five.
“Yeah it was a pretty good day, really solid. I’m proud of our team and we continue to improve. We need to days like this and you wish they were wins, but we were right there. It just didn’t come together there at the end and Joey got such a huge run down the frontstretch there was nothing I could do to stop it, other than wreck all of us. Good day for our team overall. Just one spot short,” a disappointed but encouraged Keselowski said speaking with multiple members of the media post-race.
Logano picked up the stage one win while his teammate Austin Cindric did the same in stage two. The race was largely incident-free for the first two stages, with only Bubba Wallace’s early spin bringing out a caution.
Stage two went green all the way with green-flag pit stops tripping up Blaney, who was caught speeding on exit. He would lose a lap but would return to the front of the field and factor in the finish.
The final stage produced the two biggest crashes of the day. The first was the Big One that the superspeedway-style tends to produce, as Ross Chastain got too close to Kevin Harvick with 73 to go. Harvick spun in front of the field, collecting Josh Berry, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Busch and Harrison Burton. Only Busch would recover to finish well.
“I don’t know that he actually hit me, I think he was just so close to me it just kind of took the back tires. He caught me right in the middle of the corner and the way he got to me, I think he was just barely on me and the way he came from right to left took the back of the car and spun it around. Just a weird deal,” Harvick told FOX Sports’ Jamie Little.
“I was just trying to help push him and we made a lot of ground up, and I don’t think I hit him either,” Chastain explained to Bob Pockrass. Chastain got caught in the middle on a restart and drifted back. He wound up 13th.
The next involved Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola. Almirola blew a tire in front of the field on lap 209 and Larson had a big hit into the outside wall after being unable to avoid the No. 10 car. Both drivers were checked and released from the care center.
The race ended on a 44-lap green-flag run, and the race soon became a battle between Logano and Keselowski, who had a 66-race winless streak dating back to April 2021.
Both drivers swapped the lead, and the final 30 laps was a battle between Keselowski on the outside and Logano on the inside. Keselowski was being pushed by Toyotas while Logano was given assistance from his Penske teammates.
The field got dicey heading into the final lap, and Logano was able to pull even with Keselowski out of turn 2 and pull ahead into turn 3. A push from Bell proved to be the difference as Logano sailed to the first win of his championship defense.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.
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