Joey Logano won Sunday’s NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway by bumping William Byron coming to the final lap. Logano gave Byron a shove, then slid under the No. 24 Chevrolet racing for the checkered flag.
It was his first win of the Cup Series season, in which he became the 10th different winner in 12 races.
Byron, who has two wins this year, tagged the wall. He was able to straighten his car out, but finished 13th after leading 24 laps as Tyler Reddick and Justin Haley passed him for second and third place, respectively.
Logano said the move was partially in response to earlier contact, in which he felt Byron drove him into the wall coming off Turn 2.
“That was the way he wanted to race, so I said, ‘Let’s go,’” Logano said. “If he passed me clean, it wouldn’t have looked like that.”
“I did what I had to do,” Logano continued. “Had to win the race. It was very important to win and get into the playoffs, obviously, and what everything means to winning here. Like I said, all those things go into the equation of making the decision.”
Bump for the win
While Logano, the veteran driver of the No. 22 Ford, took the checkered flag for the Throwback weekend at the Darlington, S.C. track to a chorus of boos from the grandstands, Byron expressed his displeasure.
“He’s a piece of s***,” Byron muttered to Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon after the race. “He can’t f**king win unless he drives through everybody.”
Byron cleaned up his language for the camera, but still dealt an insult to Logano live, calling him a “moron.”
“It was close racing on the restart,” Byron said on FS1. “We were faster than him. Obviously at the end, the right rear started to go away, and yeah, he didn’t even make it a contest.”
Logano led a race-high 108 of 293 laps, and his car was catching up to Byron coming to the flag, but Logan’s No. 22 Ford crew chief Paul Wolfe said he thought their car wasn’t the fastest on track and that his driver knew that he probably wouldn’t get another shot at a win without contact. Gordon also acknowledged the stakes.
“A win is important and it’s hard to come by and you want to go get those things every week,” Gordon said.
He was separately asked about Logano’s racing tendencies and said that the bump didn’t surprise him.
“He’s an aggressive driver,” Gordon said about Logano.
Logano said that he considered him and Byron to be be “equal” in terms of retaliation.
“You put me in the wall first, like I said, it’s game on,” Logano said. “At that point, in my eyes it’s equal.”
But the feud might not be over from Byron’s perspective. We’ll have to wait to find out what follows next weekend at Kansas.
The finish wasn’t the only noteworthy moment. In the final stage, a major wreck happened when Martin Truex Jr. spun from the middle of pack, collecting multiple cars, including both 23XI cars.
Truex, the defending race winner, exited his car before the finish. The nine cars caught up in that wreck to bring out the caution contributed to as many “Did Not Finishes” on Sunday as there were at Talladega earlier this year.
“When you take a track that has less grip and the car naturally wants to yaw out more, it puts you on that edge more,” Logano said. “And then when you add the bumps to it, as low as we’re trying to run the cars…It just becomes very unpredictable when you hit a bump and then it gets sideways quick and it’s gone.”
Multiple race leaders never made it to the finish, either. Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain all exited their cars after leading earlier laps.
Larson was out of his No. 5 Chevrolet before the halfway point for a mechanical issue. He spun in the first stage while battling Busch for second, then worked back into the top 10 before parking his car on pit road without power. His team took the Chevy behind the wall, but they weren’t able to salvage the car to finish the race, marking Larson’s fifth race this season in which he’s placed below 20th.
“Bummer. I thought our car was super good today,” Larson said on FS1. “I feel like maybe we hit on something here this weekend. Hate that we’re not gonna get the finish we deserve, but I’m proud of my team for the car they brought today.”
Busch similarly had a top-running car and led 19 laps, but was hit in the second stage by Brad Keselowski’s spinning No. 6 Ford while running near the front of the pack. Busch parked his damaged car at the pit road exit leading to the garages. He was fined by NASCAR last year for driving recklessly into that same area after crashing. A crew had to tow Busch’s car away on Sunday. Busch said that he “just couldn’t make the corner.”
“It’s frustrating, having a good M&M’s Camry,” Busch said on FS1. “It was nice to be running in the top five, make some laps there and just felt like we were really trying to hone in on the setup, the short run versus the long run.”
“We wanted to be good at what all was going to pay dividends at the end of the day, but oh well,” he said.
Chastain, who’s won two races already this season, was racing for the lead just after the second stage he won. Denny Hamlin took the top spot on pit road and the two fired off for the restart with Chastain on the inside, but Chastain got loose then spun into the inside wall nose-first.
The hard crashes and early exits have become commonplace at Darlington, where the exits continued late into the race at the track that lived up to its “Too Tough To Tame” nickname.
|8||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|24||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
This story was originally published May 8, 2022 2:40 PM.