DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will have to explain this one to The Captain.
The Team Penske teammates wrecked on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and surely felt fortunate to walk away unscathed.
They were running 1-2 on the backstretch, about a mile from the finish line, when Keselowski got a huge run and tried to go low to pass Logano. One of the most aggressive drivers in the NASCAR garage, Logano blocked the move.
The cars made contact, sending Keselowski hard into the outside wall and leaving Logano spinning into the muddy infield. Kyle Busch and Austin Cindric slammed into the side of Keselowski's No. 2 Ford, creating a small explosion and brief fire. Each of the drivers involved was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
McDowell, a 100-1 long shot entering the race, drove between them and was out front when the caution flagged ended the race. It was McDowell’s first victory in 358 Cup Series starts, a stunning upset in “The Great American Race.”
Neither Keselowski nor Logano had any regrets about the ending.
“Had a big run down the backstretch, wanted the make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said. “Don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everyone else’s car. Frustrating. …
“We were in position. It’s exactly where I wanted to be – running second on the last lap of Daytona with this package. Had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
Logano felt like Keselowski intentionally dropped back in hopes of getting a run. If so, it worked. Keselowski and Michael McDowell hooked up, closed the gap on Logano and had nowhere to go when Logano made the block.
“Pandemonium, I guess,” Logano said. “Chaos struck. … It seemed like we all just collided in one spot. It’s a real bummer that none of the Penske cars won, but at least a Ford won and I’m really happy for McDowell.
“I feel like we had a great shot being where we were and leading on the last lap, but if we couldn’t win, I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person, a good leader in life and has helped me a lot in my life, so it’s very cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”
Team owner Roger Penske, the man nicknamed “The Captain,” might not be as happy to see neither of his championship drivers in victory lane. Penske stresses working together, especially at Daytona and Talladega.
Penske has two Daytona 500 wins, one with Logano in 2015 and another with Ryan Newman in 2008. He surely had to be thinking he would celebrate another one early Monday with Logano and Keselowski running up front down the stretch.
Both cars ended up leaving the track on wreckers, and both drivers left the race in the back of ambulances. Logano finished 12th, one spot ahead of Keselowski.
“We knew there was going to be a run coming from somebody," said Mark Rushbrook, global director for Ford Perfformance Motorsports. "Unfortunately, Brad and Joey got together, but McDowell was there to get the win. That’s why we have all of the Fords work together and had them in front.”
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