On a night where tire troubles were front of mind, and one driver took four very late to try to charge to the front, another driver did so, then celebrated his win by....blowing a tire.
Joey Logano stormed to the lead with four laps to go in a heated four-car showdown Saturday Night to win the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, his first-ever career win at the three-quarter mile track.
Logano had been in third place or better at each 20-lap milepost from Lap 160 to the finish, save a 6th place showing with 40 laps to go. And, with a charge by Brad Keselowski after the final restart of the race to battle Matt Kenseth for the lead, it looked like he may have to be content with just a top four finish.
But an opening came and Logano stormed ahead on Lap 396, the move dropping the jaws of many of the tens of thousands in attendance. By Lap 398, his lead was over half a second.
"The #2 car (Keselowski) was really, really good on restarting and the #20 (leader Kenseth) knew it. Then the seas parted and I got to pass both of them in one shot," Logano opined.
Logano credits going through the circuit a second time around with crew chief Todd Gordon with helping them clinch a Chase for the Sprint Cup berth with their second win of the season.
"We have a notebook now," Logano said. "At Darlington, for example, we had a good car, led laps, but we didn't have a notebook. We've learned from our experience."
Kyle Busch, who took four tires on the final caution as a last-gasp move to work his way to victory lane, finished third behind Gordon, pulling ahead of Keselowski and Kenseth, who ended the night at odds after some tangling during the deciding lap that put Logano ahead.
"It was crazy. We didn't have our best underneath it tonight, but I have no idea the last ten laps...I started 16th and finished third. That's about all I know," Busch said.
For Gordon, the points leader coming into the race, his confidence in his team remains sky high even though they played the bridesmaid. In the new qualifying format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, one Cup victory by the next Richmond race on September 6th is almost mandatory in order to make the 16-car Chase field. But Gordon feels that time is very soon.
"It's frustrating to not win, but each time we run this good we get more confident we'll get that win," Gordon explained. "I feel like we can win races anywhere we go. When we run like this (tonight), we will win."
He will get his next opportunity at the Talledega SuperSpeedway for the Aaron's 499 next Sunday, May 4th.
Logano, Gordon, and Kyle Busch were followed in the top 10 by Keselowski, Kenseth, AJ Allmendinger, Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex, Jr.
Chesterfield native Denny Hamlin, after climbing to as high as fifth after a 28th place start, fell back in the final 100 laps to finish 22nd. Hamlin continues to look for his first Cup win as well, having not seen victory lane since the Budweiser Duels at Daytona on February 20th.