Joey Logano provided his own interpretation of the Golden Rule in Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, as in, “Do unto others as others didn’t do to you.”
With a guaranteed spot in the Championship 4 Round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at stake, Logano moved the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. out of the way in Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap to win for the first time at the .526-mile short track and claim his berth in the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Truex, who cleared Logano off Turn 2 on the final lap after an extended side-by-side battle, vowed that Logano wouldn’t win his first title this season.
From past experience, Logano knows that retaliation can be sudden and decisive. In 2015, after turning Matt Kenseth to win a playoff race at Kansas, Logano appeared a likely winner at Martinsville and a favorite for the championship until Kenseth pile-drove him into the Turn 1 wall at Martinsville and ended his Playoff run.
But that incident seemed a distant memory on Sunday evening, as Logano savored his second victory of the season, the 20th of his career and the cherished grandfather clock trophy that comes with a Martinsville win.
Hamlin, who had an excellent long-run car but couldn’t fight his way past fourth-place finisher Kyle Busch and fifth-place Brad Keselowski in time to challenge for the win, nevertheless had a ringside seat for the pyrotechnics between Logano and Truex.
Despite finishing third, Truex leaves Martinsville tied for third on the playoff grid with 10th-place finisher Kevin Harvick, 25 points ahead of Kurt Busch (sixth Sunday), the first driver below the Championship 4 cut line. Harvick is the last driver above the cut line due to a tiebreaker because Truex currently has the higher Round of 8 finish. Kyle Busch sits second on the grid, 46 points ahead of his brother.
Chase Elliott, who ran seventh, is 31 points behind Harvick. Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola are 42 and 50 points out of fourth, respectively. A late spin cost Bowyer dearly. He finished 21st, one lap down.