Joey Logano dominated early and then passed Brad Keselowski on the final lap to win the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and end Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports’ early-season dominance on Sunday.
Logano won the pole position and led a strong performance by three straight Team Penske drivers in qualifying, but Keselowski looked like the Ford driver to beat late in the race. Keselowski had the help of Corey LaJoie, but Logano got a push from Christopher Bell that proved decisive on the final lap.
Bell finished third in a Toyota and LaJoie finished fourth in a career-best Chevrolet.
“The first win of the season always feels better,” said the reigning Cup champion, who led 141 of the 260 laps.
Logano’s win ended a four-game win streak for Chevrolet to open the NASCAR Cup season, including back-to-back victories for Hendrick’s William Byron.
Pushed by his Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric, Logano passed Keselowski to retake the lead with 34 laps to go. Keselowski reclaimed the lead to set up the final lap drama.
After there were no warnings during the second stage, the competition – and the crashes – picked up at the end of the race.
Kevin Harvick, who won Atlanta in 2018 and 2020, was leading late when he lost control as Ross Chastain pushed him. Replays indicated that Chastain’s Chevrolet missed Harvick’s Ford, but Harvick’s spin caused a large accident.
“I think he was so close to me that he caught me right in the corner,” Harvick said of Chastain. “The way he came from right to left took the car away from me.”
Byron called the crash “just a part of racing”.
Another accident involving the leaders followed 20 laps later when Aric Almirola blew a tire, causing a spin that also took out Kyle Larson and Daniel Suárez.
All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers had alternate crew chiefs following the largest combined fine by one team in series history for modifying air deflector parts last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Hendrick received a combined $400,000 fine along with four-race suspensions for crew chiefs.