Joey Logano won a tightly contested Daytona 500 on Sunday, the first of his career. Logano passed leader Jimmie Johnson with nine laps to go and held on for a close win over Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin, among others.
Logano is in the seventh year of his racing career, but he’s still only 24. In fact, he became the second-youngest racer to ever win the Daytona 500, which marked his ninth career victory in 220 starts.
Just how did Logano do it? To find out, CBS Sports Radio asked Sporting News NASCAR writer Jeff Owens, who has covered the sport for nearly a quarter of a century. Sunday was the 23rd Dayton 500 of his career.
“Well, in a sense, it was a little bit of a surprise, but really, he did a remarkable job – because he really outdrove the very best drivers in the sport and really outsmarted them,” Owens said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “We saw the way the race unfolded. The Hendrick cars dominated all day long. First it was Jeff Gordon, then it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and then Jimmie Johnson. And those three were at the front of the field all day long, and the only guy that could pull up there and pass them was Joey Logano.”
Logano, a Penske racer, finished first ahead of Harvick, Earnhardt Jr., Hamlin and Johnson, who finished second through fifth, respectively. Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10.
Gordon, meanwhile, led the Daytona 500 for a race-high 87 laps but got caught in a final-lap crash and unofficially finished 33rd.
“When it come down to the end to that last restart and the next-to-last restart – the last two green flags of the race – Logano made all the right moves,” Owens said. “And every one of the other three – Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt – all made mistakes. They all chose the wrong line. They chose the wrong drafting partner. They got stuck in the middle. They all made an uncharacteristic mistake in that draft that cost them the race, and all three of them admitted that after the race.
“But what it comes down to is Logano made all the right moves,” Owens continued. “He got in the right lane, he used the right drafting partner, and he really just outsmarted them and drove away from them. It was quite impressive, and I think it was a continuation of what we saw from him last year when he had a breakout season. He won five races. He made it all the way to the championship race and had a great shot to win the championship, and he had a bad pit stop on the last caution flag there that cost him.
“But this is a guy that’s been around a little while, but he’s still very, very young. And he has really blossomed the last two years since going over to Penske racing. I think we’re seeing a star in the making.”