Logano wins NASCAR Nationwide race in Charlotte
Logano took the lead from Keselowski following a round of splash-and-go pit stops after Keselowski’s crew failed to get the no. 22 Dodge fueled up enough to finish the race, forcing Keselowski to give up the lead and eventually ran out of gas with four laps to go. Logano then easily outdistanced Kevin Harvick by nearly half-a-straightaway at the finish for the win.
Series points leader Elliott Sadler was third, followed by Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
The victory was Logano’s eighth of the season and 17th of his Nationwide Series career, and his first win in nine Nationwide Series starts at Charlotte.
“We had to work really hard for this - the 22 (Brad Keselowski) was pretty good the mid-part of the race,” said Logano. “He (crew chief Adam Stevens) made some good adjustments - I found a new line and was able to make this GameStop Toyota fast enough to win.
“I was getting beat and I knew I had to find something. I moved to the top and I was like,
Logano, who has raced for Joe Gibbs Racing since making his first NASCAR start back in 2008, will be leaving the team at the end of the season to take over the no. 22 Sprint Cup car at Penske Racing in 2013.
Logano had one of the strongest cars all night, leading six times for a race-high 62 laps, going up against Hamlin, Keselowski and Harvick in side-by-side battles for the top spot, including a thrilling cross-over move on Harvick with 40 laps to go that might have put him out front for good.
But for all the passing, strategizing and lead changes, Friday night’s race came down to fuel mileage.
After a round of yellow-flag stops with 68 to go, it was clear that the that no one was going to able to go the distance on fuel, as even the most conservative drivers were coming up 10 laps or more short.
With drivers stretching all they could, the leaders began coming in for fuel with 23 laps to go.
Logano was among the first to come to pit road, heading in with 15 laps to go and taking on two tires and fuel while Keselowski took over the top spot.
Keselowski made his stop four laps later, but his crew wasn’t able to put enough fuel in the car. Keselowski got out ahead of Logano and briefly duked it out for the lead, but quickly backed down to try and save fuel, falling back to fourth. Six laps later, he was out of fuel, and lost a lap on pit road trying to get the car re-fired. Keselowski would finally finish two laps down in 18th.
“It is what it is,” said Keselowski. “You have to understand that with this program, it’s about giving opportunities with different people, whether it’s Ryan Blaney who drives when I don’t or different pit crew members. We provided some opportunities to some other guys and some of them did great and obviously, we had some struggles in some other areas. That’s what this program is about. We win and lose as a team.”
Sadler overcame a slow pit stop early in the race that put him deep in the field, regaining positions with a key two-tire stop during the final yellow-flag stop to rally to finish third, gaining four points on second-place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Stenhouse struggled after damaging the spoiler on his Ford Fusion early in the race, losing seven spots while sitting on pit road trying to fix the damage, and ended up coming home seventh, and now trails Sadler by 13 points.
“We decided we were gonna try to fix the spoiler,” said Stenhouse. “I got in the wall on the first lap of that run and bent the spoiler back a little bit. We were running third there and came in and tried to fix it right there at the last second. We lost a bunch of track position and the car didn’t really drive as well in the back as it was when we were running up front.
“We’re not close enough (to Sadler). We’re losing points, so that’s not the way we need to be going.”
Austin Dillon finished sixth and managed to keep himself in the title hunt, now 16 points behind Sadler. Stenhouse, Brian Scott, James Buescher and Michael Annett rounded out the top ten.
* Denotes Rookie
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