RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Joey Logano punched his ticket to NASCAR'S playoffs. Marcos Ambrose punched Casey Mears.
Logano used a savvy move to get around three dueling former champions in the final laps Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, and the classic short-track ending caused tempers to flare in a big way in the garage afterward.
The biggest skirmish had Marcos Ambrose, who finished 18th, confronting Casey Mears, who was 19th. Mears first pushed Ambrose out of the way, and Ambrose retaliated with a thundering punch in the face that appeared to draw blood.
It was unclear what caused the two to confront each other, but NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the governing body would review the matter.
Logano, meanwhile, needed 26 races and two trips to Richmond before putting himself in NASCAR's playoff last season. There will be no such nail-biting this year, and it took just one Richmond race to make it so.
The Team Penske driver took advantage of the late-race duel to grab the lead and then outran former champions Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski. Logano's second victory essentially assured him a spot in the 10-race Chase for the championship, which he only achieved on his last chance a year ago.
Logano's first career victory on the 0.75-mile oval came when Gordon, Kenseth and Keselowski raced in a triangle jockeying for position, and Logano went underneath all three and held off Gordon for his fifth career Sprint Cup victory.
"I'm more surprised than anyone else here," Logano said. "This is one of my worst tracks. ... What a crazy finish."
It got crazier afterward, with Keselowski vowing to remember how Kenseth blocked him from a chance at winning.
"I had a shot at winning the race and felt like he ran me off the track," said Keselowski, who was fifth on the final restart, but had the fastest car on short runs all night. "You race to win and he definitely was racing to win, but you hope when somebody races to win that they at least win the race if they're going to wreck you or run you off the race track.
"It was just a mind-boggling move to me, but I made sure I got him back and made sure my teammate could win the race. ... I thought it was uncalled for. ... Just got to put that in the bank and remember it," Keselowski said.
Gordon said Kenseth was just doing what he needed to do to try and hang on.
"I think Matt did what he thought he had to do to win," Gordon said. "He started making his car real wide. He probably didn't make the guys behind him real happy."