DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Joey Logano won the Clash at Daytona on Sunday, stealing a victory when leader Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski wrecked on the final lap.
Hamlin led much of the 75-lap exhibition event, which was postponed a day because of rain, but lost control while trying to block Keselowski just after taking the white flag for the final lap. Logano slid by on the outside as Hamlin and Keselowski slowed down low.
It was Logano’s first Clash victory in nine tries and his third overall win at Daytona International Speedway. This one came in NASCAR’s first race of Speedweeks.
“It’s a momentum builder, that’s what this is,” said Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 champion.
Kyle Busch finished second, following by Alex Bowman and Danica Patrick. Bowman drove the No. 88 Chevrolet in place in Dale Earnhardt Jr., who felt Bowman earned the opportunity because he filled in for Earnhardt (concussion) last year.
“It means a lot to have driven this car for Team Hendrick,” Bowman said. “It’s been a lot of fun, made a lot of memories. Hope to do it again someday.”
Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates looked like they would celebrate a clean sweep for Toyota. Hamlin, rookie Daniel Suarez, Matt Kenseth and Busch were running 1-2-3-4 down the stretch. But Keselowski and Logano teamed up to break up the four-car pack. Keselowski had a big run and looked like he would move to the front on the final lap, but Hamlin blocked him and caused contact that allowed Logano to celebrate in victory lane.
“I knew the only way we were going to beat those Gibbs cars — they’re so good at being a team — was to break them up,” Logano said. “You’ve got to be a better team than they are. We showed that Ford was the better team today. We were able to break them up and get ourselves up front and make the big move up there at the end.”
It was the fourth straight victory for Team Penske at restrictor-plate races. Keselowski won at Daytona last July, and he and Logano each won races at Talladega Superspeedway in 2016.
So Penske might be considered the team to beat heading into next week’s Daytona 500. Toyota might have something to say about that, though.
Several others had issues.
Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson lost control twice in Turn 4, taking out Kurt Busch in the first one and then totaling his No. 48 Chevrolet in the second.
“It’s bizarre, because it drove really good everywhere else,” Johnson said. “We will take some notes and learn from those mistakes and apply that to the (Daytona) 500 car.”
Busch ended up crashing his Monster Energy No. 41 car in the first official race with Monster Energy as NASCAR’s title sponsor.
“It’s kind of a shame,” he said. “All of the hard work and the effort everybody puts into the offseason — Doug Yates and his engines and everybody from Ford and everybody at Stewart-Haas — all of the effort put toward building a car and we didn’t even make it to the first pit stop. So it’s kind of a bummer.”
Martin Truex Jr. also wrecked out of the race with 14 laps to go. Truex was trying to follow Kevin Harvick through a hole, but didn’t have enough room in front of Kyle Larson. Larson turned Truex, who spun several times and tapped Chris Buescher.
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