Joey Logano Wins Martinsville in Dramatic Fashion – Grabs Spot in Championship Race
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
Fans have complained over the last few seasons that they were tired of boring races. The spring race at Martinsville was one of those races as it was a long green flag snooze fest. This weekend the old Martinsville reappeared as Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr battled the last few laps before crossing the finish line sideways in a cloud of smoke.
Then, many of the fans who possibly complained earlier in the year about boring races, booed race winner Joey Logano as he climbed out of his Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Truex, who went from race leader to finishing third, watched the jumbo TV from the pits motioning two thumbs down towards Logano’s direction.
Then, TV cameras picked up on the two driver’s crew chiefs exchanging heated words further down pit row. What a way to open the final round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs! Tempers were high as only four drivers will be eligible for racing for the Championship at Homestead. Four drivers will be cut after two more races.
The final laps included changes at the front and hard racing through the field as all the eight drivers in the Round of Eight battled for position. The possible spoiler was Brad Keselowski who pushed his way to the front and looked like he may steal the win away from one of the drivers still in the Championship battle. Keselowski was eliminated last week at Kansas.
Instead, Logano took the lead with Truex sliding in behind him as Keselowski battled to remain towards the front. Truex pushed the nose of his No. 78 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota inside Logano’s back panel and rubbed his bumper several times. Both drivers were trying to clinch their way to the final “winner take all” race of the season at Homestead in three weeks.
Truex finally made the pass but could not completely clear the No. 22 down the backstretch. Logano put his nose under Truex in a classic bump and run move coming out of the final turn. Truex leaned back into Logano as they both slid sideways towards the finish line.
Logano crossed first as Denny Hamlin shot past Truex for second place. Truex finished a disappointing third. He let his feelings be known following the race before Logano could make it to victory lane.
‘‘He may have won the battle, but he ain’t winning the damn war,” Truex said after exiting his car. “I’m not going to let him win (the championship.) I’m going to win it. We should be in Victory Lane right now. I was next to him for six laps, I never knocked him out of the way. We were going to race hard for it, in my book. I cleared him fair and square. We weren’t even banging doors.”
Moments later Logano was interviewed on TV and told what Truex said about him and the finish of the First Data 500 at Martinsville.
“OK. That’s expected,” Logano said. “This was our shot, maybe our only shot, so we had to make it happen. I’m a hard racer, I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone, and we are here to win a championship this year. He raced really clean and I laid the bumper to him. I don’t expect him to be happy. That’s NASCAR racing.”
Furniture Row Shutdown Shows First Signs of Stress
Last year Martin Truex Jr and Furniture Row Racing won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Cup Series Championship. Then, following the end of the 2017 season, it was announced that Furniture Row would turn into a single car team and shut down their second car due to lack of sponsorship and the driver moving to another team. Then came word Truex was losing a big sponsor and the team would close following this season.
The team is still competitive and Truex has stated several times that they are not giving up. But, it appears the stress of the situation is beginning to show. Truex’s crew chief stated as much following his yelling match with Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon.
‘‘With everything we’ve got riding on it, the team closing down, it’s tough to take,” Pearn said. “I used a few choice words I probably shouldn’t have. I probably shouldn’t be around a baseball bat or a jackhammer right now.”
Truex also stated that Logano could possibly expect some payback as the 2018 season winds down.
‘‘And he just drove into the back of me and knocked me out of the way. Yeah, it’s short-track racing. But what goes around comes around.’’
Playoff Standings Following Martinsville
1. Joey Logano
In with Win
2. Kyle Busch
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kurt Busch
6. Chase Elliott
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Aric Almirola
Drivers Eliminated from Playoffs
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Brad Keselowski
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Kyle Larson
13. Jimmie Johnson
14. Alex Bowman
15. Erik Jones
16. Austin Dillon
Finishing Order First Data 500
1. Joey Logano (also Stage 2 winner) 2. Denny Hamlin (Stage 1 winner) 3. Martin Truex Jr. 4. Kyle Busch 5. Brad Keselowski 6. Kurt Busch 7. Chase Elliott 8. Ryan Newman 9. Daniel Suarez 10. Kevin Harvick 11. Aric Almirola 12. Jimmie Johnson 13. Chris Buescher 14. AJ Allmendinger 15. Ty Dillon 16. Jamie McMurray 17. Alex Bowman 18. David Ragan 19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 20. Ryan Blaney 21. Clint Bowyer 22. Paul Menard 23. Matt Kenseth 24. Cole Whitt 25. Michael McDowell 26. Erik Jones 27. D.J. Kennington 28. Regan Smith 29. Ross Chastain 30. Austin Dillon 31. JJ Yeley 32. Landon Cassill 33. Jeb Burton 34. Bubba Wallace 35. Joey Gase 36. Matt DiBenedetto 37. Kyle Larson 38. Timmy Hill 39. William Byron 40. Hermie Sadler