Joey Logano thought the battle for the win at Richmond Raceway was going to be between him and Denny Hamlin when the race restarted for the final time. And then Alex Bowman spoiled the party.
Logano lined up to the outside of leader Hamlin with 12 laps to go in the Toyota Owners 400, but was overtaken by Bowman on that same lap. Bowman then made quick of Hamlin and drove away to the win while Hamlin and Logano could only watch. Logano finished third.
“I thought we were going to (see) a battle between the front row, especially the way we launched on the final restart there,” Logano said. “I could barely hang on to the 11’s (Hamlin) quarter down into (Turn) 1. I thought maybe I could roll the top here and get there, the front just wasn’t woken up yet. It just wasn’t turning for about three laps, and obviously, the 48 (Bowman) was in a different league for about five laps. Pretty obvious adjustments they made to make that happen. He was decent all day, but he wasn’t the fastest car. They found a way to win – congratulations to them. They deserve it.
“But probably 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. Solid run for us. No win. But 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.”
HERE COMES LOGANO!drives past to take the lead away late! (📺: FOX)
— NASCAR (@NASCAR)
Logano led 49 laps and finished third in both stages. However, he led the race and was fending off Hamlin before the last caution flew on lap 382 of 400 when Kevin Harvick crashed in Turn 1. Logano then lost the lead to Hamlin on pit road.
Short runs weren’t Logano’s strong suit on Sunday. The No. 22 team continually adjusted on his Ford Mustang and made it better over the long haul, but the track also changed throughout the day. As it did, Logano felt he and Hamlin were chasing the track conditions, which resulted in their time spent chasing each other for the top spot.
Logano admitted that Bowman “snookered everybody” at the end. But for as surprised as he thinks everyone is, Logano chalked it up to anything being possible on a late restart on a short track.
“I think that’s probably what it kind of came down to,” he said. “They (Bowman) made great adjustments to make their car fire off better. And what we saw was him being lights out for five, six laps. Then it equaled out. Then last maybe four, five laps, Denny and I were able to catch him a little bit back. As it kept going, he was going to start paying the penalty. I’m just assuming he pumped up his pressure. I’m not sure how much. But seemed like the obvious (play) to me.
“Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the strategy of the play, right? If he didn’t get to the lead in the first two or three laps, he was done, right? He was going to probably finish fifth or sixth. That’s the gamble they took. He took advantage of it, got by everybody pretty quick, and kind of made us all look kind of goofy there for a minute. I want to replay it, do it again. We would do something different; I could tell you that much.”