Joey Logano of Middletown, CT wasn’t as dominant as Denny Hamlin but felt he had just as good a chance to win Sunday’s Cup race at Richmond.
Hamlin led on the final restart with 10 of 400 laps remaining with Logano lined up alongside him. While Hamlin had led the most laps in the race, Logano had shown the ability to lead late in the event.
It looked like the duo would duel to the finish.
Enter Alex Bowman.
Bowman, who had run consistently in the top-five most of the race but got sent to the back of the field early at the stage of the third stage for an uncontrolled tire penalty, fired off strong on the restart, quickly moving under Logano to take second.
By the entrance to Turn 1, Bowman had also went to the inside of Hamlin and came away with the lead – his first in the race. He led the final 10 laps on his way to the win.
“I thought we were going to be a battle between the front row, especially the way we launched on the final restart there. Just could barely hang on to (Hamlin’s) quarter (panel) down into (Turn) 1,” Logano said.
“I thought maybe I can roll the top here. Got there, the front just wasn’t woken up yet. Wasn’t turning for about three laps. Obviously, (Bowman) was in a different league for about five laps. Pretty obvious adjustments they made to make that happen.
Logano, who already has a win this season and is locked in the playoffs, was still frustrated coming to close to a second one, especially in a race where he didn’t have the best car.
Hamlin led the most laps – 207. The next closest driver was his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., who got sidelined late in the race with a pit road speeding penalty.
“It’s frustrating at the same time for probably two of the best cars getting beat by that at the end. You get frustrated being so close, but at the same time at least you’re close, so you kind of go back and forth with that in your mind,” Logano said.
“Solid run for us. No win. Had fun racing Denny there for a while. It was a good battle there for the lead back and forth throughout those long runs.
“Unfortunately, none of it was for the win.”
Asked if he was surprised Bowman became a player for the win, Logano said, “I think we’re all surprised. Anything can happen on a late race restart on a short track. As Denny says, it’s short-track racing, right?
“I think that’s probably what it kind of came down to. They made great adjustments to make their car fire off better. What we saw was him being lights out for five, six laps. Then it equaled out.
“I’m just assuming he pumped up his pressure. I’m not sure how much. But seemed like the obvious to me.”