17 June 2012
Nationwide: Logano continues his winning ways
That put the race to within 20 laps of the finish, as Logano led Sadler, Busch, Menard and Buescher to the green flag once more on lap 108. Logano got a great start on the outside line and Menard followed him through, but Elliott Sadler had a horrible time of it, backing up the inside line and allowing the duo to pull out a big lead. Busch finally got around Sadler - who fell back to seventh - and then won a battle for third place with Buescher.
The green flag lasted only five laps before the sixth caution of the day was out, and once again it was for old spinning partners Danica Patrick and Brad Sweet: while running side-by-side, Patrick's car was once again unsettled by the aero-buffeting and sent into a spin, which also collected Sweet. Sweet survived with only a glancing blow against the wall, but Patrick's hit was much harder and the car had a lot of bodywork damage for the pit crew to hammer out.
The restart was almost a reply of the last, with Logano powering away on the outside line followed this time by Buescher, while it was Menard's time to have a horror and hold up the cars behind him. Busch tried once again to move down the inside, but it didn't work out as well as it had the previous time and he found himself trapped there behind Menard.
But the green lasted no time at all: Josh Richards got rear-ended and spun around by Jamie Dick, the backwards-facing #39 then compressing the front of the #23 against the outside wall. That did some major damage to fuel lines and a fierce fire broke out under the hood of the #23 and Dick was quickly out of his car; it was more problematic for Richards, whose driver-side door was crumpled right into the front of the #23 where the fire was raging. Fortunately the safety officials were quickly on hand to extinguish the flames and Richards was out unharmed - more perturbed when his car started rolling away down the track after the officials prised apart the two wrecks apart. That scattered the safety vehicles, as the #39 executed a surprisingly tidy turning manoeuvre without anyone at the wheel.
That brought out a nine minute red flag for the tidy up of the spilt fuel. For the final restart of the race, Logano was still in charge this time, staying on the outside with Buescher inheriting the lower front row spot. Logano had Cole Whitt behind him and Buescher was backed by Austin Dillon; Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch, Michael McDowell, Sam Hornish Jr. and Brian Scott made up the balance of the top ten.
Logano once again got a great restart and leapt away to safety; Buscher had learned from the mistakes of others and covered Logano's getaway and moved into line with Logano as soon as he could to benefit from the slip stream, while behind them Kurt Busch made another assertive restart this time taking the high line to go from seventh to win a three-way battle with Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon for third place.
But when it came to the win, it was a two-horse race: Logano had the lead but Buescher was clamped to his rear bumper with his eyes on divebombing down the inside of the #18 on the final run through turn 1. He tried, and Logano saw it coming - but let him do it anyway, figuring on having the momentum to see off the challenge. He was right, and Buescher simply didn't have the last few inches to complete the pass, falling back and finally trailing Logano to the chequered flag by 0.2s.
"I knew exactly what he was doing the whole time, laying back there and trying to make that run on the last lap. I knew he was going to slide it down into 1, and I felt like, as long as I had position on him, I could pin him down enough to get a big enough lead off the corner," said Logano. "He did exactly what I thought he was going to do, and I was able to work my game plan and come out ahead enough to win the race."
"We took a shot at it at the end," Buescher said. "As long as you're in position, that's all you can ask for."
Given his early tangle with Keselowski after Danica Patrick's spin, third place was a strong result for Kurt Busch: "I felt like we did the best we could with that damage from that first spin by Danica," he agreed. ""We had to work our way back up from all that repair work and worked our way back up a couple times from starting in the back and brought the Monster Energy car home in third today.
"A little too much damage I thought when I got out of the car and looked at it I was like, 'Woo, that was definitely slowing us up on the straightaway a little bit.' The hood wasn't sealed to the nose so it was a great finish all in all with all the teamwork that went into it."
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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