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Joey Logano ended a year-long winless NASCAR Cup drought with victory at Talladega, edging Kurt Busch at the finish.
Logano spent the majority of the race towards the front of the pack and finished second in first two stages before charging to the lead on lap 139 of the 188-lap race.
From then on, he controlled the race in his Ford Fusion and led 70 laps in total to end a drought dating back to Richmond last year. In taking victory, Logano has secured a Cup playoff place.
Busch had an eventful race – his team had to replace his steering wheel and helmet after a communications problem before the pace laps had begun, and he dropped back to nearly being a lap down during the first stage.
Crucially, he kept just ahead of the leaders and worked his way back through the field, ending up back in the top 10 at the end of the second stage.
Much of the first stage was a matter of strategy – as many of the Fords pitted early to take enough fuel to go to the end of the 55-lap stage and hoping that there would not be a caution period.
There was not, and Logano’s team-mate Brad Keselowski took the first stage after the Toyotas and Chevrolets pitted much later.
As the race progressed, drivers took to running two and three-wide more frequently. On the restarts, there was even four-wide action on the 2.66-mile oval.
Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard had a strong run in the second stage, challenging and beating Logano to take his first Cup stage win.
However, the days for many of the frontrunners would come to an abrupt end on lap 165 as Jimmie Johnson ended up having a loose Chevrolet Camaro and causing a wreck involving more than a dozen cars.
Involved in the collision were Keselowski, Menard, Darrell Wallace Jr, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch – all drivers who at one point had run towards the front. Remarkably, Johnson was not collected by anybody and continued to finish in 12th.
Chase Elliot was once again denied a maiden Cup victory, albeit climbing to third after a late tyre change on lap 154 under caution paid off.
Polesitter Kevin Harvick salvaged fourth after dropping back early in the race. He led the opening 12 laps but dropped off after experimenting with the higher line and slipped through the field as a result.
Reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr had a day to forget, after he sustained substantial damage to his Toyota Camry in a collision caused by Eric Jones when he hit Jamie McMurray, who had crashed heavily in practice.
|1||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||188|
|2||Kurt Busch||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||188|
|3||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188|
|4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||188|
|5||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||188|
|6||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||188|
|7||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||188|
|8||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188|
|9||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||188|
|10||Daniel Suarez||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||188|
|11||Chris Buescher||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||188|
|12||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188|
|13||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||188|
|14||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||188|
|15||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing||Chevrolet||188|
|16||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||188|
|17||Kasey Kahne||Leavine Family Racing||Chevrolet||188|
|18||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||188|
|19||Matt DiBenedetto||Go FAS Racing||Ford||188|
|20||D.J. Kennington||Gaunt Brothers Racing||Toyota||188|
|21||Cole Whitt||TriStar Motorsports||Chevrolet||188|
|22||Brendan Gaughan||Beard Motorsports||Chevrolet||188|
|23||Timothy Peters||RBR Enterprises||Ford||187|
|24||Gray Gaulding||BK Racing||Toyota||187|
|25||Ross Chastain||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||186|
|26||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Racing||Toyota||184|
|27||Joey Gase||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||178|
|28||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||174|
|29||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||165|
|30||Paul Menard||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||165|
|31||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||165|
|32||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||165|
|33||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||165|
|34||A.J. Allmendinger||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||165|
|35||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||165|
|36||Timmy Hill||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||151|
|37||Reed Sorenson||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||79|
|38||Trevor Bayne||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||71|
|39||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||71|
|40||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||71|