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Duel at the end, then fisticuffs at Richmond

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POSTED April 27, 2014 9:31 p.m.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — From perfect weather and a big crowd to a classic short-track finish and the fisticuffs afterward, NASCAR hardly could have asked for more from its first visit to Richmond International Raceway.

Joey Logano emerged as the big winner by deftly taking advantage of a three-way duel of former champions Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, sneaking by them for his second victory.

When it was over, what happened in the three-way battle left Keselowski talking as if he had moved Kenseth to the top of his list, and Marcos Ambrose didn’t even bother making a list. He responded instead to a shove from Casey Mears with a punch in the face that was captured on video.

Then there was Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose father all but perfected the beating and banging style that has made short-track racing so popular, dismissing all the fried emotions with a glib, “Get over it.”

It was all plenty to keep racing fans talking for days.

“We’re looking at the video,” NASCAR’s vice president of competition Robin Pemberton told reporters afterward of the punch. “It doesn’t seem to be much. We’ll take a look Monday and Tuesday.”

Forgive Logano if he watches the ending a few times more himself.

He started fourth on the restart with nine laps to go, his outside position a distinct disadvantage, as evidenced by the duel emerging between the drivers who started first, third and fifth.

Logano’s Team Penske teammate Keselowski seemed to have the fastest car, but with Kenseth doing all he could to fend off both Keselowski and Gordon, an inside lane opened up, and Logano was more than happy to make his move.

His outlook on the task at hand once the last green flag dropped suggests that after tinkering with cars and formats and the value of winning races, NASCAR is onto something that resonates with fans and drivers alike with its new format.

 

Hunter-Reay wins 2nd straight year in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Ryan Hunter-Reay deftly guided his car around the rain-soaked track, stayed out of trouble and wound up with a much happier ending.

Hunter-Reay coasted to his second straight victory at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday when the rain-shortened IndyCar race finished under caution, with Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti behind him.

The win came two weeks after Hunter-Reay touched off what turned into a seven-car pileup with an ill-timed attempt to pass Josef Newgarden at Long Beach to end what had been a dominating performance.

“The week after Long Beach was a pretty long one,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was one where I just wanted to get back in a racecar as soon as I could.

He passed Power on lap 16 when the Australian left the track and skirted by the tire barrier before pulling back on.

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