Monday, 23 February 2015

Joey Logano clinches first Daytona 500 Victory

Joey Logano kicked off the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season in the best possible way by winning the 57th annual Daytona 500, holding off 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick and a charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the checkered flag.

Logano, who started the race fifth and was a contender throughout, passed a rapid Jimmie Johnson on lap 191 to take the lead. He went on to take Penske's second Daytona 500 victory after Ryan Newman triumphed for The Captain in 2008.

After taking the lead, Logano didn't look like he would be troubled for the lead, tearing away from the rest of the field as they jostled for position.

Second placed finished Kevin Harvick was the only driver in the top five who failed to lead a lap over the 203 lap race distance. Third placed Dale Earnhardt Jr. however led 32 laps, with a strategical error with 19 laps to go arguably costing him the race win. A late race rally brought him back into the top three after he dropped back.

Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five, both contending for the win until the late stages of the race.

With Kyle Busch recovering from injury and Kurt Busch suspended pending the outcome of a domestic violence case, the 2015 Daytona 500 marked the first time since 2000 when one of the Busch brothers didn't take part in the NASCAR Sprint Cup's traditional curtain raiser.

The bothers were replaced by Matt Crafton and Regan Smith respectively, the pair finishing 19th and 16th in the 43 car field.

Unusually, the race made it 202 laps before the inevitable 'big one', with a big wreck on the final lap taking out former winners Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon. Gordon, taking part in his final Daytona 500 was pole sitter and also lead the most laps with 87 until the incident. Reed Sorenson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and AJ Allmendinger were also involved in the incident which ended the race under caution.

Landon Cassil, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski were early retirees from the race with Cassil and Keselowski both succumbing to engine failures while Stewart's wait for a Daytona 500 victory continued after he hit the wall on lap 43. Matt Kenseth and Ryan Blaney were both also involved in the incident. Kenseth lost two laps as a result of the clash, Blaney however continued until lap 175 when his engine failed.

A wreck involving Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier brought out a red flag towards the end of the race, setting up a green-white-checker finish.

Despite three-wide racing several rows deep, race-winner Joey Logano broke away from the pack to take his first Daytona 500 win.

“I can’t believe it,” Logano said in Victory lane after the race. “DAYTONA 500, oh my God…are you kidding?”

“As a kid, any young racer dreams of winning the DAYTONA 500,” Logano said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season continues this weekend with the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.


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