BROOKLYN, Mich. – Joey Logano plopped into a seat, getting a much-needed break, when the 26-year-old driver found out he was just a part of history.
Logano pulled away from the pack to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 and was followed by 20-year-old Chase Elliott and 23-year-old Kyle Larson, the youngest top three in NASCAR Sprint Cup history.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said when informed of the feat Sunday.
The trio’s average age of 23 was younger than the 24.7 of the top three finishers at a race in 1951 and two races the previous year.
“The future of NASCAR is present,” Logano said. “It’s going to be big. It’s amazing to see.”
Logano, the pole-setter, moved past Elliott on lap 153 and stayed ahead for the 15th Sprint Cup series victory of his career in the 15th race of a year that has included 10 different winners.
Elliott finished a career-best second, but wasn’t in the mood to celebrate because he blamed himself for poor restarts.
“I definitely messed up,” he said. “Putting it in the correct gear would be a good start.”
Larson fell one place short of matching his best performance.
Brad Keselowski was fourth and points leader Kevin Harvick finished fifth at Michigan International Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 39th out of 40, is the only winner from 2015 that is winless this year.
NASCAR’s latest aerodynamic package made its debut, part of the sport’s plan to create more competitive racing.
“We hope it works,” team owner Joe Gibbs said, leaving a venue that used to be packed and now has pockets of empty seats in the 72,000-seat racetrack. “We need more people in the stands.”
The new aero setup included, for the first time in more than a decade, a reduction in the downforce to 1,500 pounds and shortening of the spoiler to 2.5 inches.
“It’s not a whole lot different than the other package,” Earnhardt bristled from the garage after a crash knocked him out of the race. “I think we talk about packages too much.”
Drivers weren’t sure how their cars would handle due to the changes, which will also be implemented next month at Kentucky. That appeared to lead to an uncharacteristically accident-free start on the 2-mile oval about 70 miles west of Detroit.
The first caution didn’t slow down the race until lap 47, the cleanest start at MIS since 2009.
“At the start of the race, everyone was trying to take it easy,” Larson explained.
Free-flowing racing didn’t last long. Yellow flags became frequent before a restart with 30-plus laps left.
Logano had a huge lead with 12 laps to go when Denny Hamlin, the Daytona 500 winner, blew out his front right tire to force another restart. Logano sped away when the racing went green again and coasted to the win, seemingly taking advantage of the new aero package.
“The cars are out of control, no doubt,” he said. “Crazy. It makes it a lot of fun. You’re going faster in the straightaway and you have no downforce. Especially three-wide, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
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