FORT WORTH, Texas — Joey Logano had a big lead and was within a half-lap of taking the white flag at Texas.
The late caution and extra laps? They just made his victory Monday in the rain-delayed Sprint Cup race that much more exciting.
With a last-lap pass of Jeff Gordon in NASCAR’s version of overtime, Logano became the seventh different winner in as many races this season, with new rules for the championship Chase putting an increased emphasis on winning.
Logano had a 2.2-second lead on teammate Brad Keselowski while closing in on the white flag that would have guaranteed no extra laps. Then came the caution for debris on the track after Kurt Busch went into the wall.
“My heart dropped,” Logano said.
“When you’ve got like 40-something laps after the last pit stop and a pretty sizeable lead, all you’re thinking is where’s the white flag, where’s the white flag,” he said. “Then you go into Turn 1, and you see the 41 up against the wall, please, no caution. … You get so mad that you can barely control yourself.”
On the ensuing pit stop, Gordon took only two tires and exited first. Both Team Penske drivers took four tires, but Keselowski missed a chance to become the season’s first two-time winner when he was penalized for speeding on pit road and finished 15th.
“I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road,” Keselowski said. “We’re in it for wins. We’re not in it for second. Second or 15th is the same for us.”
On a restart at lap 262, Logano quickly pulled his Ford away from the field and had a nearly 5-second lead before his last green-flag stop. After the green-white-checkered restart on lap 339, Logano went inside past Brian Vickers and quickly got behind Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet that had only two fresh tires.
Heading onto the frontstretch, Logano went low and was able to get past Gordon going into the first turn.
“He crossed over and got into the back of me pretty good,” said Gordon, who took over the points lead. “At that point, I was just thinking, I just want to finish. Looked out my mirror, those guys were racing hard being me. A great, great second-place finish for me.”
Kyle Busch finished third, ahead of Vickers and rookie Kyle Larson.
Logano, the only driver with top-five finishes in both Texas races last season, got his fourth career victory after leading 108 of 340 laps six laps more than scheduled. Team Penske joined Stewart-Haas Racing as the only teams with multiple winners this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished last in a 43-car field for the first time in seven seasons after driving his car into the rain-saturated infield grass and then shooting across the track and slamming into the wall in a fiery crash. He took the blame for the accident on lap 13 that also led to problems for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.