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Jim Utter

Logano wins Atlanta Cup race with last-lap pass on Keselowski

Keselowski was in control of Sunday’s race as the laps wound down but Logano – who had led much of the race (140 of 260 laps) – had worked his way back into contention.

On the final lap, Keselowski led the outside line while Logano led the inside. As the field headed toward Turn 3, Logano went to the outside of Keselowski, and thanks to a big push from Christopher Bell, was able to clear Keselowski for the lead.

Logano then held off Keselowski by 0.193 seconds to earn his first win of the season and first at Atlanta, where he spent many years of his youth racing Legends cars on the ¼-mile infield oval.

“First off, winning at Atlanta is so special to me. So many memories of me and my dad (Tom) and racing right here on the quarter-mile and this is the full circle,” said Logano, who earned his 32nd career win.

“So many memories racing here in the Legends car and having a good time and dreaming of going straight on the quarter-mile and on to the big track. That was always the dream to do. To finally win here means so much to me personally.

“This (car) was an animal. It was very, very fast. I was able to lead a ton of laps, raced really hard there at the end and got a good push from (Bell) to clear myself (for the lead). Huge victory. Nice to get one early in the season – always feels better.

“A great day for us.”

Bell ended up third, Corey LaJoie finished a career-best fourth and Tyler Reddick – who raced with flu-like symptoms – ended up fifth.

Completing the top-10 were Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Ty Gibbs and Kyle Busch.

Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap cars pit with Aric Almirola first off pit road thanks to a fuel-only stop.

Chris Buescher had to restart from the rear of the field for speeding on pit road. Reddick was forced to pit again as the team didn’t get all the fuel in on his first stop.

On the restart on Lap 169, Almirola was followed by Logano, Austin Cindric, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman.

Stenhouse got a shove off Turn 2 and grabbed the lead on the restart for the first time in the race.

Hamlin, using the bottom lane and a push from LaJoie, got around Stenhouse to take the lead on Lap 176 as Stenhouse dropped to second.

Shortly after Kevin Harvick took the lead on Lap 189, Ross Chastain got Harvick loose from behind on Lap 190 and Harvick’s No. 4 Ford went for a spin in front of the field.

Among the car involved in the incident were Busch, Buescher, Harrison Burton, Josh Berry and William Byron.

All of the lead-lap cars hit pit road with Almirola first off as teams made multiple strategy choices. Hamlin and Ty Dillon made contact on pit road while Chastain ended up driving in grass.

On the restart on Lap 200, Almirola was followed by Kyle Larson, Keselowski, Chastain and Reddick.

As Almirola led the field around Turn 4 on Lap 209, it appeared he had a tire go down and spun and collected Larson, which brought out the fifth caution of the race. Daniel Suarez also got some damage in that incident.

The 10 (Almirola) just blew a tire,” Larson said. “He spun in front of me and I had nowhere to go. It’s getting closer to the end, so it always ramps up but I had nothing to do with that incident.”

A handful of cars elected to pit but Keselowski remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 217. He was followed by Reddick, Bowman, Bell and Hamlin.

With his two teammates close behind him, Logano was able to get around Keselowski on Lap 227 and return to the lead.

Thanks to a push from Reddick, Keselowski moved ahead of Logano to regain the lead on Lap 231.

With 15 laps to go, Keselowski maintained a small lead over Logano and Blaney. Reddick ran fourth and Bell fifth.

With five to go, Keselowski and Logano were racing side-by-side for the lead.

Stage 2

With the help of lapped traffic, Cindric was able to grab the lead on the final lap and edge Logano for the Stage 2 win. It’s just the second career stage win for Cindric.

Bowman was third, Reddick fourth and Byron rounded out the top-five.

Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, all the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Busch first off pit road.

On the restart on Lap 68, Busch was followed by Keselowski, Blaney, Cindric and Logano.

On Lap 70, Blaney got around Logano for the lead as Busch dropped to second and Logano ran third.

With a shove from Logano, Busch returned to the lead on Lap 75.

Logano dropped to the bottom lane in front of Martin Truex Jr. and powered to the lead on Lap 77.

With 60 laps remaining in the stage, Logano maintained a small lead over Busch as Blaney ran third.

Austin Dillon missed the entry to pit road and then lost the draft. He finally pit on Lap 123 under green but fell a lap down.

Busch and Truex hit pit road on Lap 126 to kick off a round of green-flag stops to take on new tires and fuel to make it to the end of the stage.

Logano, along with several others, pit their stop on Lap 132. Blaney had to serve a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road during his stop. Ryan Preece had to serve a pass-through penalty for a commitment line violation.

Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 143, Logano returned to the lead, followed by Cindric, Reddick, Byron and Buescher.

By taking fuel only, three of four Hendrick cars ran in the Top 10 with 10 laps to go.

Stage 1

Logano led all 60 laps and held off his teammate Cindric on his way to the Stage 1 win, his first stage victory of the 2023 season.

Keselowski was third, Blaney and Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

Logano started on the pole and took early command of the race before Bubba Wallace spun and wrecked off Turn 2 on Lap 10 to bring out the first caution of the race.

A handful of teams elected to pit under the caution but Logano remained on the track and in the lead. The race returned to green on Lap 16.

With 30 laps remaining in the stage, Logano remained out front, followed by Cindric, Blaney and Keselowski.

With 10 laps to go, Logano, Cindric and Blaney kept a lock on the front three positions as Bell had advanced to eighth after starting last.

Bell had to start the race from the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments to his No. 20 Toyota.

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