24 March 2012
Nationwide: Logano adds to JGR's Fontana run
Joey Logano made it eight Nationwide wins in a row at Fontana for Joe Gibbs Racing, winning the Royal Purple 300 race after leading for 92 of the 150 laps of the race.
Joe Gibbs Racing clearly pretty much owns the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, southern California: in making it to victory lane this weekend, their driver Joey Logano's win was the eighth time in a row that a Joe Gibbs Racing car has emerged triumphant at Fontana in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, a quite remarkable statistic.
Polesitter Logano led for the first 26 trouble-free green flag laps of the Royal Purple 300 Nationwide race, before the top spot was finally wrested from him by Brad Keselowski on lap 27. Behind them the top ten was reasonably stable and consisted of familiar faces including Justin Allgaier, Brian Scott, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr. and Trevor Bayne through the first third of the 150 lap race distance.
Having qualified in 15th position, Kyle Busch was sent to the back before the start for missing pre-race driver introductions; but that didn't phase him at all, and within 12 laps he had made up all that lost ground, although making the final leap into the top ten proved a different order or magnitude and took him somewhat longer to achieve.
The first caution of the day came out on lap 57 for debris, nicely timed to allow the cars to come in for their second round of pit stops under yellow having previously stopped under green some 20 laps earlier. Unfortunately Keselowski stopped too close to the pit wall to allow his pit crew enough space to work cleanly, and the time lost as a result saw him drop eight places for the restart.
That put Logano back on the top spot for the green flag, alongside Nationwide Series points leader Elliott Sadler. Sadler briefly took the lead at the restart but Logano quickly struck back underneath the #3 to reclaim the position. Justin Allgaier also proved stronger than Sadler and slid into second position and pulling Stenhouse with him into third, while Keselowski was also on the way back and already in the top five again after his pit stop mishap.
A second caution came out on lap 92 when Sam Hornish lost the backend of the #12 through turn 4, tried to control the spin and ended up overcorrecting onto the infield grass area. The leaders all took the opportunity to come in for a fresh round of pit stops: Logano comfortably kept the lead ahead of Allgaier while Brendan Gaughan gained positions and moved to third place ahead of Stenhouse and Busch. Keselowski had another slow stop and slumped back five places again.
Allgaier had a lacklustre restart on lap 97, allowing Logano to easily pull away in the lead, but a new caution debris quickly materialised on lap 104. Logano maintained the lead through a quick cycle of pit stops for fuel top-ups and led at the the restart ahead of Stenhouse as Allgaier's engine blew up on him. Further down the running order, things got frantic right away with cars stretched across the full width of the speedway as they jockeyed for position at what appeared to be the crucial stage of the race.
Logano's hold on the lead proved at and end when faced with a challenge from Kyle Busch, finally in a position to claim the lead by going underneath Logano in turn 3 on lap 111. His time on point only lasted 13 laps before Brad Keselowski returned to the fray, and for the next eight laps there was a close quarters scrap between Keselowski, Busch and Logano for position that was finally interrupted by the fourth caution of the day for Blake Koch spinning out of turn 4 on lap 132 just as the leaders were putting a lap on him.
That was good news for all concerned as most cars were marginal on fuel; the big question was what tyre strategy to pursue. Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler went for two tyres only and took the front row for the restart ahead of Logano, who had gone for four. Keselowski also went for four and took the green flag in fifth place; and this time it was Kyle Busch's turn to lose out badly in pit lane, as indecision about whether to go for two- or four-tyres resulted in confusion and a costly delay dropping him all the way down to 17th place.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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