FORT WORTH, Texas – Joey Logano was headed to the win of Monday's rain-delayed Duck Commander 500. Or so he thought, anyway.
He had a lead of over one second through turn three on the penultimate lap. The white flag was approaching his sights. When the flagstand came into view, the yellow flag was out.
It was time for a green-white-checker finish. After Logano took four tires when the field headed towards the pits, he left in third place, behind Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers. The win was suddenly not looking so assured.
It was when he passed Gordon. After getting by Vickers on what was officially the next-to-last lap of the race, Logano made his move for the win at the white flag and pulled away from Gordon to take the checkered flag. He just needed to drive another six laps for that victory.
"Talk about a lot of emotions, you feel like you're about to win the race and then the caution comes out when you're about to take the white and you're like 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Logano said.
The caution was for Kurt Busch, who had a flat tire in turn two. Busch avoided the wall there, but then his left-rear tire shredded apart as he headed towards the pits in turns three and four and spewed foam and tire pieces all over the track.
Had Gordon's two-tire strategy call been successful and he held on to the lead, it would have been quite the turnabout from California. Two weeks ago, Gordon was leading there and heading to the white flag when Clint Bowyer spun. Gordon took four tires on pit road and never got close to the lead again.
But unlike California, only Gordon and Vickers took two tires. Logano, who easily had the best car over the race's final third, only had to contend with a single row of cars ahead of him. He took the lead for the first time on a lap 225 restart and save for two rounds of green-flag pit stops, never relinquished it until the final caution flag.
After a bizarre first 40 laps, the race, which was postponed from Sunday afternoon, had a much calmer bent. The first 10 laps were under caution to make sure the racing surface was dry from the rains over the weekend.
However, as the field was circling the track under yellow, jet dryers were also on the track and the force of the air from the jet driers lifted up flaps on some cars and even the hood of Brad Keselowski's.
NASCAR let all the affected teams fix any affected areas.
Shortly after the race went green, Dale Earnhardt Jr. clipped the infield grass, careened into the wall and his car caught on fire. Junior's teammate, Jimmie Johnson, was trailing the Daytona 500 winner and also had damage in the incident. Then, not long after Junior's accident, Kevin Harvick, who started second, blew an engine.
Because of Junior's crash, Gordon now leads the points standings by four over Matt Kenseth.
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