DARLINGTON, SC (AP) — After William Byron hugged him to the wall in a final restart, Joey Logano knew what he would do if given the chance to regain the lead.
Logano hit Byron from behind on the penultimate lap to win at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. Byron hit the wall at turn three and Logano took his first win of the season and his first on the track “Too hard to tame.”
“There’s something to be said for an angry racing driver”, said Logano, who broke a 40-race winless drought.
Logano, who started from pole, had one of the strongest cars all day and was in the lead coming out of the pits heading into a restart with 25 laps to go. But Byron, who started low, forced Logano into the wall and out of the lead.
“If someone is willing to do this to you, then the gloves are off”, Logan said.
Byron was unhappy with the maneuver, calling Logano a “you idiot” and one “imbecile” who ran others in dubious fashion throughout his career.
Darlington fans let the Team Penske driver know what they were thinking, booing the 2018 NASCAR champion when he got out of his car.
“I’ve been called many things, much worse than moron,” Logan said.
Byron, who signed a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports, looked set to maintain his team’s dominant season in the final rounds. Instead, Logano broke a 40-race winless drought.
Tyler Reddick finished second followed by Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez.
Byron fell to 13th. He said the restart was just a close race and Byron didn’t deserve a hard hit to the rear bumper so close to the end.
“He hit me so hard he knocked the whole right side of the car down and sent me into the corner,” said Byron. “He’s just a moron. He can’t win a race, so he does it like that.
Logano led 108 of 293 laps and reached victory lane for the first time since winning on gravel at Bristol in 2021.
It was the first time the new Next Gen car had taken NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway and the results were mixed. The race was solid, although several of the top competitors did not last to the finish.
Defending NASCAR champion Kyle Larson sat out with engine failure after 112 laps. Former champions Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski were also absent long before the finish.
Odds on favorite?
Larson was the betting favorite to win for the first time at Darlington. But the defending Cup Series champion continued his bad luck at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway. Larson, starting second, led 30 of the first 32 laps before spinning on lap 54 and crashing out on 29th.
Larson had worked his way into the top 10 at the start of stage two before returning to the pits where his crew blew the bonnet. They couldn’t get the car to start again – “I have, like, no power” Larson told them – and rolled it into the garage.
It’s been that kind of stretch for Larson, who has finished second in his last three races at Darlington. During a tire test here last month, Larson hit the wall twice at the start.
It was the fourth time in 12 races this season that Larson was out before the end.
“Shame,” said Larson. “But the good thing is that we were very quick.”
Kyle Busch’s day ended after he couldn’t avoid running into Brad Keselowski after the Roush Fenway runner tagged the wall just in front of Busch. A frustrated Busch drove his #18 car to pit road and left it there, walking in his trailer.
A tow truck had to hook up the Joe Gibbs Racing machine and move it to the garage. Busch had led 19 laps at the start of the race.
Busch was fined $50,000 by NASCAR last year when at the Southern 500 here he drove his damaged machine into the garage, knocking over several cones and causing people to quickly scatter in the way.
Busch was asked why he stopped where he did. “I just couldn’t make the corner” he replied.
The series moves to Kansas Speedway, where Kyle Busch is the defending event champion. Kyle Larson won the October race at Kansas.