Joey Logano was determined to do whatever it took to punch his ticket to the Championship 4.
Exorcising the demons of previous Martinsville Speedway shortcomings, Logano used an aggressive move to edge fellow playoff driver Martin Truex Jr. to win the First Data 500 at the historic half-mile on Sunday afternoon. Denny Hamlin finished second, Truex was third, pole-sitter Kyle Busch finished fourth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
The culmination of a late-race battle between the two championship hopefuls came in the race’s final corner, with Logano making contact with Truex’s door, and in the process, propelling the No. 22 to the top spot and an opportunity to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship next month.
“It’s about time we won one here,” Logano said in Gatorade Victory Lane. “We’ve led so many laps and been in position so many times, it’s great to finally get the win. Hard, classic, NASCAR at Martinsville racing, and I had a lot of fun being a part of it. There’s just so much on the line when you’re in the playoffs like this. The advantage of winning at Martinsville is a huge deal, and I’m glad we were able to get it done.”
Playoff drivers were largely successful in Sunday’s race, with six of eight finishing in the Top-10. Aric Almirola finished 11th and Clint Bowyer, who spun in the final stage, wound up 21st. Hamlin, a five-time winner at Martinsville, passed a nearly-spun Truex for second as they raced to the line.
The thrilling finish adds another chapter to Martinsville Speedway’s long history of classic short-track battles that is sure to continue March 22-24, 2019 for the STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com or call 877-RACE-TIX (877-722-3849).