Fort Worth, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Joey Logano became the seventh different winner in as many Sprint Cup Series races this season after he passed Jeff Gordon on the final lap to take Monday's Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, a race delayed one day due to rain.
Logano held the lead while his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski was running close behind him in second when the caution flag came out in the closing laps. Just before the white flag was to be displayed, Kurt Busch, who won the last race on March 30 at Martinsville, blew his left-rear tire and made contact with the wall, forcing the caution and setting up a green-white- checkered finish.
When the leaders pitted during the caution, Gordon took two right-side tires only and came out of the pits first. Logano and Keselowski exited in third and fourth, respectively, after their four-tire stops. Keselowski, though, was penalized for speeding off of pit road and had to restart in 17th.
Gordon and Logano battled for the top spot after the final restart, with Gordon nipping Logano at the line to lead the second-to-last lap. But Logano pulled ahead of the four-time series champion and then held him off at the finish by 0.5 seconds.
"Talk about a lot of emotions, you feel like you're about to win and then the caution comes out before you take the white flag," Logano said. "I was like, 'You got to be kidding me.' But the boys [No. 22 Team Penske Ford team] did a great job in the pits and got me out where I needed to be.
"I had a good enough restart and then got a good run on the 24 [Gordon] to pass him at the end. Man, it's awesome."
Logano scored his fourth career win in NASCAR's premier series. He also became the next driver to all but guarantee himself a spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Logano made the playoffs for the first time last year, finishing eighth in the point standings.
"It feels good to be back in victory lane and in the Chase," he said. "I felt very confident going into this race. For some reason, I told [crew chief] Todd Gordon that we were going to win this week. I felt like we had a car that could win this thing today."
At age 23, Logano became the youngest driver to win a Cup race at Texas since the series started racing here in 1997. He led the most laps in this race with 108.
With his second-place run, Gordon grabbed the lead in the point standings. He has yet to win a race this season.
"That was an awesome race all day," Gordon said. "I got a pretty good restart, but Joey was right on me, and I was pretty loose through [turns] 1 and 2. I wish I would have gone a little bit higher down in 3 and 4. But he got that run off of 4 and then he got into the back of me. I thought I was going to wreck. So at that point, I was like, "Second will be good'."
Kyle Busch finished third, followed by Brian Vickers and rookie Kyle Larson.
Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Tony Stewart, the pole sitter, completed the top-10. Stewart led 74 of the first 76 laps but faded from there.
Keselowski ended up finishing 15th. He won last month's race at Las Vegas, a 1.5-mile racetrack similar to Texas.
"That last caution was a shame," Keselowski said. "I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road and wanted to get us out front to be able to win the race and tried a little too hard."
This 500-mile race was scheduled for Sunday but postponed one day due to inclement weather.
The first 10 laps ran under caution, as jet dryers were on the track to thoroughly dry the surface. High pressure air from the jet dryers caused problems for several drivers during the caution, as the air affected the front hood and roof flaps on their cars. Keselowski had to pit several times for repairs but did not lose his second starting position when the green flag waved on lap 11. NASCAR allowed any driver who encountered an issue with his or her flaps to pit and then return to their original starting spot.
"I was definitely wondering what happened," Keselowski said. "I knew it was the jet dryer that caused it, but it was one of those freak deals."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed hard into the wall on lap 13, ending his race with a 43rd-place finish. Earnhardt dropped down the track and ran on the infield grass along the front straightaway, which caused damage to his left-front tire. He shot up the track before smacking the wall. The rear end of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet erupted into flames. He immediately climbed out his heavily-damaged car, as track safety workers quickly extinguished the fire.
"You can't run through there [grass] the way we've got these cars on the ground like that," Earnhardt said. "It was just a mistake on my part. I just didn't know I was that close to the grass and just made a mistake."
Earnhardt entered this race as the points leader but dropped to sixth in the standings. He began the season by winning the Feb. 23 Daytona 500.
Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion and three-time race winner at Texas, was behind right behind Earnhardt at the time his teammate ran on the grass. Debris from Earnhardt's car caused damage to the windshield on Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet, forcing him to pit multiple times for repairs.
"There was a lot of noise, and I saw his car, and then I instantly lost vision," Johnson said. "I felt a couple of hard hits on my car, and I knew that we had some damage."
Johnson later experienced a flat tire. He wound up finishing two laps behind in 25th.
Kevin Harvick finished 42nd after he suffered engine failure on lap 29. Harvick, in his first season as driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, won at Phoenix on March 2 but has finished 36th or worse in four of the past five races.