Lodi News-Sentinel

Atlanta duel between Logano, Keselowski was great for NASCAR


He didn’t break his 66-race winless streak.

He didn’t make his first trip to Victory Lane since becoming a partowner at RFK Racing.

He’s known to be one of the best superspeed­way drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series — and he had an undeniably fast car at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday and led the field into the white flag before another Ford passed him on the last lap.

And yet despite all that — what could’ve been but wasn’t — Brad Keselowski said he had reason to be encouraged after losing to Joey Logano.

“It was a heck of a battle,” Keselowski said after notching his second-place finish. “The coolest thing about this is two veterans showed that you can run a race here side-by-side bump drafting and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectful­ly, and I thought everybody did a great job.”

The idea of “racing with respect” has been talked about a lot this NASCAR Cup Series season. This weekend was no exception. NASCAR’s Truck Series and Xfinity Series races were cluttered with cautions and last-lap wrecks. Drawing the line between recklessne­ss and aggressive­ness was the talk of the AMS media center on Saturday, too, as drivers weighed in on the saga that is Denny Hamlin vs. Ross Chastain — a discourse that included Kyle Busch sounding off about how drivers just don’t race with adequate ethos like they used to.

“We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage area between drivers,” Busch said on Saturday. “That’s where the problem lies. It’s that nobody gives two shits about anybody else, and it’s just a problem where everybody takes advantage of everybody as much as they can. We’re all selfish, granted, but there was an etiquette that once did live here.”

But on Sunday, that idea of racing with “respect” was on display.

Fans on hand Sunday saw two large wrecks in Stage 3, but neither of those wrecks came in the final laps like they so often have this season.

Instead, it featured a good old-fashioned duel between two of the best drivers on superspeed­ways in the sport — side-drafting and making runs like it should be done.

“We both know we’re good at this, right?” Logano said. “I feel like Brad is one of the top-5 best speedway racers on the racetrack. I feel like I’m in there. There are a few others in there that you just know are really good at it.

“When we were kind of duking it out back and forth, we were side-byside, and we were side-drafting each other, and all this stuff, it was like, ‘This is what you expect.’ And it’s fun going up against the best like that.”

There was an extra layer to Sunday’s finish, of course. Logano and Keselowski were teammates at Team Penske for so long.

Keselowski’s spotter, TJ Majors, used to be Logano’s spotter. Logano’s crew chief Paul Wolfe said he lost his voice hollering as the end of the race came to its thrilling end as a result of the matchup.

The connection meant Logano knew Keselowski’s tendencies — in large part because they are admittedly so similar.

And that made them race each other the way they would’ve raced themselves. Tough. Gritty. Racing each other hard but avoiding crossing the line into “dirty.”

 ?? HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM ?? Joey Logano celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Ambetter Health 400 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.
HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM Joey Logano celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Ambetter Health 400 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

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