Logano’s late gamble pays off with NASCAR win in Las Vegas

Elliott Stern, Sports Editor

LAS VEGAS – In the gambling capital of America, Joey Logano’s team rolled the dice and came up the big winner Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas.

Logano drove his Pennzoil Ford Mustang to victory in the 5th annual South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as NASCAR kicked off the Round of 8 to become the first NASCAR Cup driver to guarantee himself a spot in the Championship 4 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 8.

“We’re racing for a championship, let’s go,” shouted Logano after climbing out of his car. “What a great car.

“At the beginning of the year, all you want to do is race for a championship. Now we get to do it.”

Joey Logano does a burnout after winning Sunday’s South Point 400 NASCAR Cup playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022.. Photo by Jonathan Bachman, Getty Images.

When the caution flag flew with 26 laps left in the 400-mile race over the speedway’s 1.5-mile oval, Logano’s Team Penske crew called him onto pit road for a fresh set of tires while the race leaders stayed on the track. Logano was running in 10th place at the time.

He found himself in 13th place on the restart but, with 13-lap newer tires than the leaders, Logano was able to drive through the field, catching race leader and fellow playoff driver Ross Chastain with three laps to go, driving away to a 0.817-second victory.

“I felt that tires meant something today. I’m kind of surprised that more cars stayed out,” said Logano’s crew chief Paul Wolfe. “We only gave up three spots for four new tires. I think that was a pretty good trade-off.”

“Ross did a really good job for five or six laps,” said Logano. “I knew the opportunity would be to take advantage of his weakness off of Turn 2. I had to be patient because he was doing a good job of blocking the top (lane). I knew coming down to the end that I had the tire advantage but I knew when I was able to break the plane of his bumper, I was going to pass him.”

Chastain finished second followed by Kyle Busch, playoff driver Chase Briscoe, playoff driver Denny Hamlin, pole-sitter Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, AJ Allmendinger, and Austin Dillon.

“There was a clear difference in (lap) times but we fully believed we’d be able to hold him off,” said Chastain. “Joey just did a great job of going through the field.”

“We weren’t great at the start today but it doesn’t matter because of where we were at the end,” said Briscoe. “We wish we could have got the win but we’re still in the ballgame.”

“My car drove pretty decent but we struggled on the restarts,” said Hamlin who started the race from the 31st position. “We were fifth in Stage 2, fifth in the race. It was an okay day. I’ve just got to be a little bit faster, a little bit better.”

Joey Logano celebrates winning Sunday’s South Point 400 NASCAR Cup playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Jonathan Bachman, Getty Images.

Bubba Wallace won Stage 1with Ryan Blaney winning Stage 2.

Four playoff drivers finished outside the top 10; William Byron in 13th place and Chase Elliott in 21st.

Blaney had mechanical troubles and crashed on Lap 229, forcing him out of the race in 28th, and Christopher Bell in 34th.

Bell was put out of the race when he got caught in an accident between Kyle Larson and Wallace on Lap 96.

Larson drove up the track on the frontstretch and put Wallace into the wall. Wallace’s car bounced off the wall, clipping Bell as he was trying to get by.

Wallace then took a hard left turn, slamming into Larson’s car.

Wallace then got out of his racecar and charged at Larson, pushing him as Larson tried to avoid the confrontation. Race officials stepped in and kept the two apart.

Wallace denied he deliberately rammed Larson’s car.

“When you get shoved into the fence like he did (to me), your power steering is gone,” said Wallace. “He knows what he did was wrong. Larson knows the message I was trying to deliver.”

“It didn’t surprise me what he did,” said Larson. “His race wasn’t over until he retaliated. I think he knew he made a mistake.”

“Bubba got run into the wall and retaliated and we got the short end of the stick,” said Bell. “Now we’ll see if we can pull another rabbit out of the hat to make it to the Championship 4.”

Hall of Famer Mark Martin was honored before the race with the Speedway’s first Legends of Racing award. Martin won the inaugural Las Vegas 400 in 1998 in the JR51 car.

“It’s an unbelievable honor to be a part of this program. It’s really cool to get here to show off this car,” said Martin. “A lot of people wanted to see me back in a race car. Well, they’re going to see me but in a pace car – at pace car speeds.”

He was joined in the pace car by Las Vegas Raiders star wide receiver Davante Adams.

Adams was just back from Fresno. He made a quick round trip from Las Vegas to Fresno Saturday to attend Fresno State’s 17-10 Homecoming victory over San Jose State where his No. 15 jersey was retired at halftime.

The trip to Fresno was, in itself, an adventure when the windshield cracked in the jet in which he was flying, forcing the plane back to Nevada for repairs.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it to the game on time,” said Adams. “We had to land back and then get it right and make sure we got there safe.”

Logano has one season’s championship on his resume. This year, he’ll be trying to win his second in his fifth attempt.

“This is the second-biggest victory of the year,” said Logano. “Now we can focus on the race that really matters in Phoenix and the chance to win a championship.

NASCAR next heads to Homestead-Miami Raceway for the second race in the Round of 8 next weekend.

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