25 August 2012
Nationwide: Logano on top at Bristol
Stenhouse remained on point for the green flag on lap 69, Sadler once again demonstrating that the inside line was not as effective for restarts as he lost out to Kasey Kahne. Joey Logano restarted form fifth place and was initially held up by lapped traffic, but by lap 86 he was back up to second place and hunting down Stenhouse for the lead. Even though he was clearly fast, it still took him another 20 laps of juggling with lapped traffic on the claustrophobic short oval before he finally took the top spot, just before the sixth caution of the night came out for a spin by Fain Skinner on the backstretch.
Everyone pitted this time, and a two tyre-only gamble put Kevin Harvick in the lead for the restart at the halfway point of the race and set up a protracted side-by-side battle between Sadler and Logano for second place, which Sadler initially clinched but which he lost again to Logano on lap 147. The top three were all covered by just six tenths of a second and looking finely balanced, but at last on lap 170 Logano was able to dart under Harvick and briefly put his nose in front.
Before he could seal the deal, however, the seventh caution of the night was out on the very next lap for a spin involving Benny Gordon out of turn 2. That meant Harvick was in charge for the restart ahead of Logano, Sadler, Stenhouse and Kyle Busch, and the #33 was able to retain the position despite intense pressure for the next 35 laps.
Finally, though, the pressure from Logano paid off. With the help of lapped cars including that of Jeremy Clements getting in the way on lap 215, Logano was able to get a little overlap underneath the #33 and prise Harvick off the optimum racing line to take the lead shortly before the eight caution of the race on lap 228 for John Wes Townley slamming into the wall in turn 4.
Harvick paid for his earlier pit road fortune by running out of fuel as he desperately sought to come onto pit road in time under the yellow flags, which essentially meant that he was out of contention for a win despite his impressive form all evening. Instead, the final duel for the chequered flag was to be between Logano, Stenhouse and Sadler, with Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne lurking right behind the leading trio and ready to pick up the pieces should any misfortune occur.
In fact it was Kahne who suffered the ill luck in the final caution of the evening, when a collision between polesitter Trevor Bayne and leading series rookie Austin Dillon caught out Kahne and sent the #38 for a spin, dropping him to the back of the lead lap for the final two-lap shootout to the chequered flag.
"The #3 car just drove over his head and took us out. That's all there is to it," said Bayne after exchanging heated words with Dillon after the race that only ended when Dillon's car owner and grandfather Richard Childress stepped in to break up the brewing confrontation.
Stuck with the inside line and having to bump Elliot Sadler aside at the restart, Ricky Stenhouse had no opportunity to do anything about challenging Logano for the lead and ended up half a second off the #18 at the line; Kyle Busch had been able to sneak an extra position from Sadler to finish in third place.
Stenhouse was quick to make his apologies to Sadler for their rough and tumble. "That was my fault. I should have lifted more and gave him more room," he said. "We got into the #2 there coming off turn four. I definitely didn't expect to do that. He definitely had a better race car than we did and I didn't expect to get that run on him that we did, but luckily he was able to save it. I definitely don't want to crash anybody."
Sadler accepted the apology but was less than happy, indicating that it would change the way he handled racing with Stenhouse in the future. "He said he didn't mean to hit us," said Sadler. "I'm glad he didn't wreck us. He pushed us out of the way, but it could have been ugly. It's not the finish we deserved. We should have finished second."
Sam Hornish Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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