NASCAR takeaways: Logano passes Keselowski on last lap for first win of 2023
HAMPTON, Ga. — The NASCAR Cup Series races the past few weeks have had some remarkable elements.
Joey Logano, who won at Las Vegas and Phoenix last fall to win the series championship, was a non-factor at those tracks to the surprise of many.
And then he won a race Sunday that wasn’t a surprise that he won — but just that it didn’t end with a chaotic last-lap crash as has been typical of Atlanta Motor Speedway events since repave and reconfiguration prior to the 2022 season.
Logano made a bold move to pass Brad Keselowski on the final lap to earn his first win of the season and right his Team Penske ship a little bit.
He earned the first Ford win of the season after Chevrolet won the first four. The Fords appear to be the strongest on the superspeedways while the Chevrolets have appeared to be the strongest on the other ovals.
“We know the situation we’re in this year, and we know we have to be perfect all the time,” Logano said.
“And if there’s a team that can do it, it is this team. … And we know when we come to tracks like this, we’re going to be really, really good and have the dominant race cars and we need to maximize days like this, like we did.”
Takeaways from Atlanta, where Keselowski finished second, followed by Christopher Bell, Corey LaJoie and Tyler Reddick.
Logano wins in Atlanta
Joey Logano makes a late push to pass Brad Keselowski for the checkered flag at the Ambetter Health 400.
Keselowski is considered one of the best drivers at the superspeedway-style events. So is Logano.
Logano used a push from Corey Lajoie to get past Keselowski, who had led the previous 29 laps and had been successful holding off competitors’ runs.
“I’m disappointed that Joey got such a great run,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got to take a look and see how in the hell he pulled that off. I’m not disappointed with my team.
“He made a great move, and he deserves credit for it. I don’t think there was any way I was going to stop it without wrecking.”
Logano and LaJoie were surprised that they didn’t wreck.
“There was a huge shot down the backstretch from the outside lane to get Joey out front and clear,” LaJoie said. “That’s usually when you see guys get crossed up and wrecked.
“It was nice to see we were all professionals and didn’t run over each other.’
Keselowski sums up his day
Brad Keselowski discusses his second-place finish in the Ambetter Health 400.
Kevin Harvick was leading the race when it appeared Ross Chastain went to push him in the corner and Harvick went spinning, ending the day for himself, Chris Buescher, William Byron and Harrison Burton.
“I think he just caught me so quick right there in the middle of the corner and then he kind of was up on the right rear part of the corner and he came back down, and when he came back down it just spun the thing out,” Harvick said.
“I don’t think he actually even hit me, but it started chattering the rear tires and then I was just along for the ride.”
Chastain also said he didn’t think he hit Harvick.
“Just trying to help push him,” Chastain said. “We had made a lot of ground up. I don’t think I hit him.”
Harvick gets wrecked
Kevin Harvick gets spun and wrecked along with Chris Buescher and Kyle Busch as Ross Chastain grabs the lead.
Gritty Finishes For Top 5
Bell finished third on a day where he had started at the rear of the field because of a spin in qualifying that forced the team to repair the car Saturday afternoon.
“I aborted the bottom and went to the top [with a lap to go], and gave the 22 [of Logano] the bottom which ultimately got him the lead. That was disappointing.
“Ultimately to come home third, I’m super happy with that.”
LaJoie was happy, too. He said he wasn’t thinking of helping Logano, his good friend, but that’s just the way it ended up late in the race. And LaJoie didn’t finish wrecked as he did when battling up front last year for the win. He characterizes his organization with a smaller budget and currently 14th in the standings as a positive.
“I got myself some more confidence — race around these guys, these guys see me up there racing with them [and] our day is going to come,” LaJoie said.
Reddick battled through a stomach digestive illness Sunday morning where the team had John Hunter Nemechek on standby in case Reddick couldn’t finish the race. Reddick finished and finished well.
“It didn’t quite work out timing wise as it needed to for [me to make am move] — all in all, it was an OK day,” Reddick said.
Ambetter Health 400 highlights
Check out full highlights from Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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