5 May 2012
Nationwide: Logano steals 'Dega from Busch
Joey Logano won a dramatic last-corner finish in the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega, following a red flag for a serious multi-car wreck.
At the climax of a race dominated by drafting, pack-racing and water temperature spikes, Joey Logano managed to slingshot his way past Kyle Busch in the final metres of the final lap to emerge as the winner of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron's 312 race at Talladega Superspeedway. It came during the second green-white-chequered attempt at a finish, following a previous red flag for a serious multi-car wreck that saw Eric McClure airlifted to hospital.
Earlier - when the race initially got underway following a brief delay for some track drying after a two minute drive-by shower had swept through the area - the action had quickly fallen into a mix of two-car and pack-drafting techniques, with Joey Logano immediately getting behind Elliott Sadler and propelling him to the front. But very soon their advantage expired and they were sucked back into the pack once more, and even when two cars shot off into a huge lead out front - such as James Buescher and Dale Earnhardt Jr. did from lap 8 - all it took was one slightly shaky moment while swapping running order and they were quickly sucked back into the pack for the whole process to begin once again.
Even early on, everyone was nervously eyeing their water temperature gauges, with Kevin Harvick falling like a stone from a brief turn in the lead when his own readings spiked into the dangerous 260/270 degree range forcing him to ease off dramatically to allow the water to cool down again. Perhaps in the circumstances, then, it was no surprise to see the #70 of Johanna Long suffer engine problems which laid oil down on the track and brought out the first caution on lap 21, conveniently timed to allow everyone to pit under caution and generally cool their cars down for a few minutes before the restart on lap 26.
Having led briefly before the caution, Kyle Busch took the green flag; but he was lacking his former drafting partner, his brother Kurt, who had been hit with a penalty after his refueller was unable to extract the gas tank from the #1 in time as it pulled away from the pit box. That left Kurt at the back of the field, and subsequently in his drive to push back to the front he gave a slight tap on the back fender of the #11 driven by Brian Scott on lap 29, sending it into a spin that sparked a multi-car accident. Kurt Busch's car was itself caught out, getting a side-on-side impact from Morgan Shepherd on its way back down from hitting the wall.
That meant a second caution, with those worst affected by the wreck - Scott, Shepherd, Josh Richards and Jason Bowles - coming onto pit road first, together with Kurt Busch who has seemingly escaped relatively lightly. Others were soon also on pit road for more routine tyre-and-fuel stops, but Austin Dillon was left wishing he hadn't when John Wes Townley pulled into his pit box immediately in front of Dillon's as the series rookie was pulling out, resulting in impact and a delay pulling the cars apart before Dillon was ushered on his way.
Racing resumed on lap 35 with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Justin Allgaier, Danica Patrick and Joey Logano at the front, although that changed the minute the green flag came out and once again drafting rules applied after a brief period of single file traffic. Logano and Sadler emerged as two of the strongest cars, at least until Sadler slightly misjudged his push on the #18 and sent Logano flying up the track in a scary moment, after which the two inevitably drifted backwards for a while as they picked up the pieces and reconnected.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was looking the strongest of all, breezing to the front even without visible means of support. Kurt Busch was also now back near the front having reconnected with his brother, and Kevin Harvick was over his early temperature issues and schooling his young Richard Childress Racing stablemate Austin Dillon the finer art of superspeedway racing.
Green flag pit stops were looming, when Mike Wallace tapped the back of Brad Sweet and sent the #38 into a hard hit on the wall on lap 62. That produced another episode of multi-car pinball catching out Eric McClure and Jon Wes Townley heading into turn 1 and narrowly avoiding sucking in reigning champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as well. Inevitably, this all resulted in the third caution of the night and meant that the impending pit stops were all able to happen under yellow after all.
At the restart, Earnhardt Jr. was still the man on form and this time opted to push Cole Whitt to the front of the race. It was a short-lived alliance and Earnhardt would later return to the front with Joe Nemechek's assistance, and there was also a turn in the lead for Earnhardt's team mate Danica Patrick, making her only the second female driver to lead a lap at Taladega.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr.
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