Just four races in and Joey Logano can easily say he has won half the races this season. That’s the magic of the early part of the racing season. But all kidding aside….
…. that is still a pretty incredible feat given the level of competition this year. Logano led 60 laps on his way to Victory Lane. Kevin Harvick finished second after leading 67 laps. It looked like Harvick might be the race winner adding to his dominance at Phoenix, but the late restarts saw Logano get out to just enough of a lead to hold off Harvick and Kyle Busch.
The early stages of the race saw Chase Elliott lead 93 laps and look like the best car on the track. Unfortunately, he fell victim to a loose tire that required him to pit and lose a lap. He still had the fastest car on the track and got back on the lead lap but was never able to threaten the eventual leaders while he finished a disappointing 7th.
Brad Keselowski also led the early parts of the race and led 82 laps. Keselowski and Ryan Blaney got caught up in a melee started by Denny Hamlin as he got into Keselowski, spun him and wrecked Ryan Blaney. It reminded me of the California race where Hamlin drove through Kyle Larson. I don’t know what Hamlin was doing but he sure isn’t winning many friends right now. He’s got a win already and there is no sense racing that hard in the early stages of a race.
Harvick won Stage 2 and looked to be a definite contender for the win but even he admitted that he mismanaged the race by letting Logano get to the lead. Logano was stout so I am not sure what Harvick thinks he could have done aside from wrecking him.
The race was pretty clean and green for most of the day until the waning laps when caution after caution bunched up the field and set up a GWC finish. Kyle Busch had a fast car but spent too much time battling Brad Keselowski for position while the leaders drove away. The final caution saw wife Samantha Busch pumping her fist knowing just how good Kyle is on restarts and that the caution might help separate him from Keselowski. It certainly did but not enough to let him challenge Logano who had a tremendous restart.
Of the young guns, Tyler Reddick was running in the Top 10 much of the day and looked like he might be able to pull off a Top 5 finish when he lost a tire and hit the wall. Cole Custer was the highest finishing rookie in ninth place. Matt DiBenedetto finished with another Top 15 finish after a ninth place start. Kudos to all three of them even though Reddick wound up in the garage.
Martin Truex, Jr. got bumped from behind by Aric Almirola late in the race, sending him into the wall and then to the garage. That gives Truex 2 DNFs in the first 4 races. Certainly not the way to start the year but he has plenty of time to get caught up.
The Top 10 right now is populated with Ford (6 spots) and Chevy (4 spots). The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas sit in 11th (Hamlin), 12th (Kyle Busch), 15th (Truex) and 20th (Jones). With only 6 Toyota’s in the entire field, it looks like it is up to Gibbs to pretty much carry the Toyota banner this season. Each manufacturer has visited Victory Lane this year and it will be interesting to see if Chevy can gain some ground they seem to have lost.
Coming up next
Next up is Atlanta where Keselowski has won twice and finished second once in the last three races, plus he is the defending winner. Harvick won two years ago and before that, Jimmie Johnson won the races in 2016 and 2015. Johnson is running better but I’m not sure he has found enough speed to battle Keselowski and Harvick. I fully expect Keselowski and Harvick to be at the top of the chart again on Sunday. Kyle Busch’s best Atlanta finish in the last 5 years? Sixth. My sleeper would be Martin Truex, Jr. with one Top 5 and 4 Top 10 finishes at Atlanta in the last 5 years.
Stay sharp and keep the shiny side up!
(Featured photo courtesy of NASCAR Media /Chris Graythen/Getty Images)