Joey Logano mistakenly stayed out on the track during the final caution of Sunday’s race at Las Vegas. It paid off.
Logano was ahead when a crash happened as the field took the white flag on a two-lap restart to end the race. As John Hunter Nemechek spun and then William Byron hit the wall because of a flat tire, NASCAR threw a caution on the final lap that got Logano the win.
“I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do,” Logano said of the pit call. Per the Fox race broadcast, his crew chief Paul Wolfe told Logano to pit if the drivers ahead of him pitted. Logano was in third when a caution flew with six laps to go for Ross Chastain’s spin. As Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman ahead of him headed to pit road, Logano didn’t.
He got a push from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the race’s final restart and was ahead of Byron when he had contact with Matt DiBenedetto. That contact caused a cut tire on Byron’s car and led to him hitting the wall a lap later.
“Clean air was going to be key with old tires,” Logano said. “If I got swallowed up by a couple cars, I was just going to fall backwards really quick.”
Blaney was leading when the caution came out and ended up finishing 11th. His crew put four tires on the car during the pit stop so not only did he have to restart behind the seven cars that didn’t pit, he also had to start behind the few cars that took two tires on the pit stop.
“It was just a crappy situation,” Blaney said. “We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it. I had a good shot of holding [Bowman] off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them. It’s easy to look back on it and say we should have stayed out. That’s a tough call for Todd Gordon in his position, but I’ve got to thank him for giving me a really good car.”
Bowman ended up 13th. DiBenedetto finished second in his second start for the Wood Brothers. It also ties his career-best finish. DiBenedetto finished second at Bristol in August in 2019.
The win is Logano’s second-straight in the Las Vegas spring race and virtually guarantees that he’ll be in the playoffs when the fall rolls around. Logano led 54 laps after starting fifth and had the lead late in the race ahead of the final caution until he was passed by both Blaney and Bowman in short order. If the caution hadn’t come out, Blaney looked like he was heading to victory.
Daniel Suarez’s rough start
After parting ways with Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2019 season, Daniel Suarez was able to stay in the Cup Series by virtue of a full-time ride with Gaunt Brothers Racing. The small team competed on a limited basis in 2019 and wasn’t going to provide Suarez with cars that were nearly as competitive as the ones he had at Stewart-Haas.
And it’s still hard to fathom how brutal the start of the season has been for Suarez. Gaunt is operating without a charter in 2020 and Suarez had to race his way into the Daytona 500. He crashed in his qualifying race and missed out on the biggest race of the year.
Sunday, his car wouldn’t even go at the start of the race. Seriously. A caution had to be thrown on the first lap of the race because Suarez’s car stopped in the tri-oval just after the green flag waved. After he got a push to pit road his team was able to fix the issue. But Suarez ended up 30th.
Bad day for Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch was the highest-finishing JGR car on Sunday. He finished 14th.
Yes, no Joe Gibbs Racing cars finished in the top 13 at Las Vegas. It was not a great day. It didn’t help that Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin had to start at the back because of illegal modifications made to their cars before practice on Friday, but Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. didn’t have good days either.
Truex finished 20th and had the fastest car amongst the four JGR guys. But he hit the wall because of a cut tire on lap 177 and the damage on his car made it uncompetitive the rest of the way. Hamlin was 17th and Erik Jones finished 23rd.
Is NASCAR happy with its caution procedures or not?
Saturday, NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell was asked at a news conference about NASCAR’s overtime rules and caution procedures on the last lap of races. This was part of his response to the question that regarded race protocol.
“I'd say the overtime rules we're not going to change,” O’Donnell said. “The caution procedures, I would stand by how that worked for the Daytona 500.”
Here’s a screenshot of the full exchange from NASCAR’s transcript.
NASCAR didn’t throw a caution on the final lap of the Daytona 500 for Chase Elliott hitting the wall at the start of the last lap. And its caution for Ryan Newman’s crash came after both race-winner Denny Hamlin and second-place finisher Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line ahead of Newman’s wreck.
Sunday, O’Donnell might have struck a different tone. He told reporters that NASCAR should have been quicker on the caution call for Newman’s crash on the final lap. Had NASCAR thrown a caution before Hamlin and Blaney reached the finish line, the driver ahead when the caution light came on would have been declared the winner of the Daytona 500.
NASCAR says it has reviewed the finish of the Daytona 500 and recognizes it should have ended under caution, but that does not change the outcome or finishing positions.— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) February 23, 2020
Steve O’Donnell says NASCAR would have changed the winner if the video review showed 12 out front at time caution should have been thrown. https://t.co/dwJjzjPTd4— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) February 23, 2020
Sunday, NASCAR didn’t waste any time with calling the caution for the crash on the last lap. As the wreck happened in the tri-oval and Byron’s car went into the wall entering turn 1, NASCAR called the caution that made Logano the winner of the race since he was leading at the time.
1. Joey Logano
2. Matt DiBenedetto
3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4. Austin Dillon
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Bubba Wallace
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Kyle Larson
10. Ty Dillon
11. Ryan Blaney
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Alex Bowman
14. Kyle Busch
15. Chris Buescher
16. Corey LaJoie
17. Denny Hamlin
18. Tyler Reddick
19. Cole Custer
20. Martin Truex Jr.
21. Aric Almirola
22. William Byron
23. Erik Jones
24. John Hunter Nemechek
25. Kurt Busch
26. Chase Elliott
27. Ross Chastain
28. JJ Yeley
29. Brennan Poole
30. Daniel Suarez
31. Joey Gase
32. Quin Houff
33. Christopher Bell
34. Reed Sorenson
35. Garrett Smithley
36. Michael McDowell
37. Ryan Preece
38. Timmy Hill
– – – – – – –
Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
More from Yahoo Sports: