By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Joey Logano appeared destined to win at Kentucky Speedway, until the caution waved with five to go.
Following the final cycle of green flag pit stops, Logano found his No. 22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford Mustang behind Kyle Busch. The Team Penske driver continued to pressure Busch until he captured the lead in the Quaker State 400. Logano extended his lead to just over a second when the caution waved with five laps to go for a spin by Bubba Wallace.
On the restart, Logano suddenly found himself in the middle of a Busch brothers sandwich with Kyle on his inside and Kurt on the outside. By the time the trio entered turn three in overtime, contact between Kyle Busch and the 29-year-old found Logano shuffled back. By the time he stabilized in seventh, the checkered flag was waving.
“The caution came out at the wrong time,” Logano explained. “It happens. You try to think through your notebook on how to have a good restart. I thought I was going to have a decent one, but I got stopped on the left rear there when Kyle (Busch) got into me.
“That stopped all my momentum. The 1 (Kurt Busch) had a huge run and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t block them all. I tried to stop the 18 on his right rear by side-drafting. I saw the 1 coming and felt like if I could get in front of him that we were so low at the time if I blocked the 1 he would just go to the middle and pass me.
“I felt like I couldn’t stop the 1. I was in a bad spot. Once I got stopped on the left rear on the restart I was a sitting duck and they just went by me on both sides.”
Prior to the final stage, Logano spent the night inside the top-five. He battled eventual race winner, Kurt Busch, for the Stage 1 victory. Logano took the green and white checkered flag in second. In the second stage, he finished fifth.
The seventh-place finish was the 13th top-10 finish for Logano this season. It was also the 192nd of his career.
Logano remains the points leader with seven races remaining in the regular season. Already locked into the playoffs, he is battling Kyle Busch for the regular season championship. Logano’s point lead over Busch is now just 13-points.
With Kyle Busch winning the second stage, Logano lost ground in the battle to earn playoff points. He is now nine markers behind Busch. The battle between the duo will likely increase as the regular season champion receives an additional 15-playoff points.