Joey Logano, William Byron and 'Doing What I Had to Do' at Darlington

The race for the win came down to a retaliatory bump-and-run.


hero image for Joey Logano, William Byron and 'Doing What I Had to Do' at Darlington

"4 to go, he knows what's coming. Go get him."

Joey Logano didn’t need the reminder from spotter Coleman Pressley because in his words, the No. 22 was being driven angry and the outcome was inevitable after he felt forced into the wall by William Byron on the final restart with 25 laps to go.

There were numerous factors that played into the finish on Sunday at Darlington Raceway.

Contact on the restart
A winless season through 11 races and a recent slump
A season of parity and the potential for 16+ regular season winners

Logano said he did what he needed to do, mostly because of what happened on the restart, when Byron bobbled beneath him and drifted up in the corner and forced the Team Penske Ford Mustang into the wall.

So, coming down the backstretch to the white flag, Logano drove straight into the back of Byron and sent the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 into the Turn 3 wall. Logano won the race and Byron limped his broken car to a 13th place finish.

The first person to meet Byron as he climbed out of the car was team executive Jeff Gordon.

Byron called Logano a 'piece of something or the other' while saying Logano 'can’t ever win without wrecking everybody.' Understatement: He was mad and expressed it to the attending media as he walked towards the competitor’s lot, too.

"We just got a little free," Byron said. "Right rear tires were an issue all day and he just ran us over."

Is that going to be how it is between them now?

"Yeah, he runs everyone over," Byron added. "I don't see what's different He didn't even try to make the corner."

By this point, Byron heard that Logano took exception to the restart, but he didn’t see the action and reaction as equal.

"Pretty clean restart," Byron said. "All day, everyone on the bottom couldn't get through that bump (in Turn 2) any good. It was tight and no reason for him to make it retaliation. He does this stuff all the time."

For Logano, it all comes down to the contact between them on the restart. The 2018 Cup Series champion was very adamant that the rules of engagement between them changed the moment he scraped the wall.

"To me, I wouldn't have gone straight to the bump and run if it wasn't for how he got the lead," Logano said. "He came off 2 and drove me straight into the wall so by that point, I'm lucky my car wasn't broken. I'm an angry driver, and I think any driver would tell you if that happens to them, that the gloves are off by that point. If I got back to him, I knew what I was going to do ... what I had to do.

"That was the way he wanted to race, so I said 'let's go.' If you had passed me clean, it wouldn't have played out that way."

What does do what I had to do really mean though?

"If you're willing to make the move to get the lead by doing that, drive another car into the wall, you've opened the door for retaliation to get the victory," Logano said. "When you do that, you have to see it coming and he expected it too, which is why he went into the corner slow and low. He knew it was coming.

"So yeah, it's what I had to do. I'm not going to get pushed around. I'm not going to get bullied. That's how this works. That's how this sport has worked for years. Like I said, if that's not how it happened, I'm not making that move. I'll race cleaner and try to make the move a different way."

But they barely touched, some have said.

"Okay," Logano said flatly and with a pause. "Okay."

Then laughter.

"Maybe from his side," Logano said. "But I felt his car on one side and the wall on the other side as I was sandwhiched in the fence. Okay. Cool."

No. 24 crew chief Rudy Fugle knew his car and driver were probably sitting ducks. It had fallen off over the green flag run and he believes Logano was going to make the winning pass regardless. The biggest exception Fugle took was that Logano didn’t even try to make a clean pass in his estimation.

"You’re coming to the white, so I would have loved a shot of him throwing it to the bottom," Fugle said. "We were struggling there the last couple of laps. William was very loose and just trying to get to the finish.

"I don’t think we were throwing a block. I think we were just trying to do our thing so we could get drive off the top and go race him for the final lap. Everyone wants to be raced first and then let things happen."

Like Fugle, Gordon wished Logano had done it differently.

"I'm sure Joey is going to justify it and William will have one in his back pocket," Gordon said.

And while Logano has a reputation, this is also how Cup Series finishes have trended over the past decade, especially with the win and you’re in championship format. The words cutthroat and at all costs frequently come to mind. Gordon understands that, but not necessarily at Darlington.

"Wins are important and hard to come by," Gordon said. "But you think about doing it at Martinsville, not Darlington and that's what makes this stand out."

Beyond the retaliatory nature of the payback shot, there were other reasons for Logano to want to win at all costs too. Sure, he’s ninth in the championship standings but there is a non-zero chance that there will be 16-plus regular season winners this year. That would leave all winless drivers out of the playoffs. His team has gone through a slump the past several weeks, too.

This was a chance to right the ship.

"I don't know that this was a must-win, yet, but it's getting closer to it," Logano said. "Week by week, we're getting different winners. You're starting to see similar characters up front every week, the same drivers, and then you sprinkle some other guys in there from week to week."

The No. 22 team have been the sprinkle and not the consistent base.

So then, back to Byron, Fugle says the shoe will be on the other the other foot at some point.

Should it?

"We're equal," Logano said. "We're equal. You put me in the wall, man. It's game on. At that point, it's equal. If I had done that, with no prior issues between us in the past, and there hasn't been.

"Look, I don't think he meant to fence me, but the facts are he did. It's racing and it took the win out of my hands. To that point, you have to do what you have to do to get the lead back in the same fashion and that's what I did."