DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Joey Logano won a two-lap shootout to capture a first Daytona 500 on Sunday as Jeff Gordon’s Great American Race farewell ended in a last lap crash.
What had been an orderly race finished in chaos when a crash with three laps to run brought out the red flag, leaving the cars parked on the track until a restart was ordered.
That set up a two-lap sprint around the high-banked 2.5 mile tri-oval to decide American motor sport’s biggest prize.
Logano led the field on the restart, fighting off challenges from reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick and defending 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. before he crossed the finish line under a yellow flag as a pileup behind him involving several cars, including three-time Daytona champion Gordon, brought out the caution.
”It feels just like the way you dream it. What an amazing moment,“ said Logano. ”To win this race is just amazing.
“That feeling of winning the Daytona 500, I can’t explain how cool this is.”
Although scheduled for 200 laps around the Daytona International Speedway the race went into overtime when Justin Allgaier spun into the wall with three to go, leaving the fans on their feet and the cars parked while the track was cleared of debris.
With some of stock cars biggest names lined up behind him, the 24-year-old Logano, who had never finished better than ninth in NASCAR’s showcase event, held his nerve on the restart powering clear of the pack to become the second youngest driver behind 2011 champion Trevor Bayne to capture the 500.
Harvick took second and Earnhardt third with Denny Hamlin fourth and by six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson fifth.
It was the also the second Daytona 500 win for team owner Roger Penske, who has record 15 Indianapolis 500 winners but found success harder to come by in Florida.
Pole sitter Gordon had been near the front of the pack most of a sun-kissed afternoon leading for 87 laps, but found himself too far back and in too much traffic to make a charge on the last restart.
”For some reason I’m still smiling and enjoying every moment of it,“ said Gordon. ”I am just in a different place that is so foreign to me, but so incredible.
“Right now I‘m a little bit sad this is my final Daytona 500 but I‘m more upset we didn’t have a shot at winning there at the end.”
Editing by Steve Keating