Joey Logano-William Byron might not have been the duel most expected before the green flag waved on a brisk Sunday at historic Darlington Raceway, but sometimes the combatants are not who one expects.
With NASCAR’s emphasis on wins for the playoffs and a season where many teams struggle to be consistently good with the new car, drivers have to fight for the wins when they get the chance.
That’s how Byron, seeking a series-high third win of the year, and Logano, looking for his first points win in an up-and-down season, wound up in the latest drama on the stock car circuit.
Logano won. Byron bristled.
Logano took umbrage with Byron squeezing him up against the wall in Turn 2 with 26 laps left as they dueled for the lead. That’s why Logano was willing to knock Byron up the track to take the lead in the final laps.
“If you’re willing to make the move to get the lead by doing that, by running a car into the wall, you have opened up the door for retaliation,” Logano said. “When it was only 20 laps or so before that, you’ve got to expect it coming. That’s why he went into the corner low and slow — because he knew it was coming.
“Is it what you have to do? Yeah, you have to do that in that situation. You’re not going to get pushed around. I’m not going to get bullied, I’ll tell you that much. That’s how the sport works. Our sport has worked like this for years.
“Like I said, if that wasn’t how it happened, if that’s not how he took the lead, I’m not making that move. I’m going to try to race cleaner and try to make the pass a different way, but at that point I knew there was one way to guarantee a victory, so I was taking that maneuver at that point.”
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) May 9, 2022
Byron downplayed how he got the lead from Logano in an interview with FS1 after the race.
“We were really close off of (Turn) 2, and I think it spooked him and got him tight, and he was right against the wall and I got the lead,” Byron said. “He’s just an idiot. He does this stuff all the time. I’ve seen it with other guys.”
With that incident in his mind, Logano — “you had an angry race car driver, I’m telling you,” he said — chased down Byron. He caught him coming to the white flag. Logano hit Byron’s rear bumper in Turn 3, shooting Byron’s car up the track. That allowed Logano to get by to lead the final two laps to win.
Byron was furious after finishing 13th.
“He runs everybody over,” Byron said, walking through the garage after the race. “I don’t see what’s different. He does it to everybody. Didn’t even let us finish. He goes in (the corner) 10 mph faster. Stupid.”
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) May 8, 2022
Byron went on to say: “He didn’t even barely make the corner, so I don’t know why he goes in so hard and knocks the (expletive) out of you. Makes no sense.
“We barely touched off of (Turn) 2 (earlier). Pretty clean restart. Everybody on the bottom all day couldn’t get through that bump very good. It was tight. No reason for him to say retaliation. That’s stupid.”
That’s racing, Logano suggested.
“I’m a very angry driver, and I think anyone in the field would probably agree, if someone is going to be willing to do that to you, well, the gloves are off at that point,” Logano said. “I knew if I got back there what I was going to do and what I had to do.”