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Joey Logano jockeyed for the lead with Kyle Busch in overtime, got around him for good just before the white flag flew and cruised to the victory Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series debut at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Logano made it a banner day for Team Penske, which won the IndyCar race with Will Power earlier in the day in Detroit.
Kurt Busch finished third with Logano’s teammate, Ryan Blaney, fourth and Aric Almirola in fifth in a wild race that contained plenty of drama involving Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott deeper in the field.
Chastain got into both of them at different points, leading to a series of on-track retaliations.
Joey Logano won the Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
By the end, Logano had watched Kyle Busch drive away from him on a restart with 13 laps remaining, then got another chance when Kevin Harvick crashed with five to go. That led to a green-white-checkered finish at the 1 1/4-mile hairpin east of St. Louis, and Busch chose the outside lane as Logano drove his No. 22 car to the inside once again.
This time it was Logano that won the drag race to Turn 1 and moved up in front of Busch, who crossed him over and took the lead into the sweeping third and fourth turns. That’s where Logano went low and pulled ahead, gaining the space he needed to pull away when Busch got a little sideways coming out of Turn 4.
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at the track drew a sellout crowd. (Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
The first Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway, nestled just across the Mississippi River from the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis, produced a thrilling throwback to the early years of NASCAR, when tempers in the cars ran just as hot as the temperature outside — it soared over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun.
Chastain had a lot to do with it.
The trouble for the eighth-generation watermelon farmer began in Stage 2, when Chastain ran up on Hamlin’s rear end coming out of the hairpin first and second turns and sent the No. 11 into the outside wall.
Logano has two wins in 2022 and has secured a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Hamlin spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get even: He nearly drove Chastain down onto the grass down the back stretch, then slowed to a crawl around the track and nearly kept him from making the minimum speed.
Hamlin had some support, too. Chastain got into Elliott’s quarter panel later in the stage, spinning him out. And when the race resumed, Elliott nearly nudged Chastain into the wall before Hamlin took a swipe at him.
All the drama kept a sellout crowd of more than 60,000 on their feet in the blistering afternoon sun.
FRONT TO BACK
AJ Allmendinger won the Xfinity race Saturday in Portland, Oregon, then flew to St. Louis to start at the rear of the field Sunday. Ben Rhodes was supposed to qualify his No. 15 for Kaulig Racing but crashed in Turn 3 during practice and did not make an attempt. Allmendinger drove through the field to finish 10th.
Zane Smith, who was ninth in the Truck Series race Saturday, made his Cup Series debut in place of Chris Buescher, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Smith drove the No. 17 to a 17th-place finish for RFK Racing.
Martin Truex Jr. became the 32nd driver to make 600 starts in the Cup Series when he took the green flag. His first came at Atlanta on Oct. 31, 2004, for Dale Earnhardt Inc. The 2017 series champion finished sixth in Sunday’s race.
The Cup Series heads to the road course at Sonoma in California’s wine country next Sunday before taking a week off.