Joey Logano climbed out of his car, while thunderous applause broke out a few hundred yards away. Only it wasn’t for him, but rather Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Who just minutes earlier snapped a 199-race winless streak to win the Daytona 500. Logano, however, finished second. Coming to the white flag, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion rode a push from Kyle Busch around the outside of Stenhouse and Kyle Larson to the lead.
“Second is the worst, man. You’re so close. I knew if I went to the bottom, my car didn’t handle good enough,” he said. “I already got pushed off the bottom once and I thought, if I go down there I’m probably going to get wrecked, and I don’t know if I can get down there in time to throw the block and so I didn’t want to wreck my car either.”
The gambit worked. He completed the overtake in Turn 1 and just needed to survive another two miles to score his second Harley J. Earl Trophy. That, or a timely caution. He got neither.
Victory within his grasp
A few seconds after taking the lead, Aric Almirola loosened Travis Pastrana, who turned down into Larson, hooked him into the outside wall, and triggered a multi-car, race-ending caution. But as long as Joey Logano was ahead of everybody else at the moment of caution…and you know where this story goes.
He trailed Stenhouse when the caution flew. Thus, race over. Stenhouse channeled his inner Helio Castroneves and climbed the catchfence in celebration. Though he went a step further and did a few pull-ups, while in the air. Then he took his car with an empty fuel tank to victory lane and lifted the Harley Earl Trophy for himself.
Of course, Logano knows what it’s like to win the Daytona 500, as he did in 2015.
“Congratulations to Ricky. There’s nothing like winning the Daytona 500. That’s why it stings so much finishing second.”
Not to add salt to the wound, but his runner-up means the drought of Duel winners to win that season’s Daytona 500 extends to an 11-year run. At the end of the day, however, there’s a silver lining. Thanks to his Duel victory, Thursday, Logano leaves Daytona International Speedway as the points leader.
While that ultimately means little when the playoffs start, it’s not a bad way to kick off a title defense.