Joe Gibbs Racing's outgoing driver Joey Logano completed a sweep of the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Dover International Speedway by putting in a dominant performance in Saturday afternoon's OneMain Financial 200, leading for 184 of the 200 laps of the race.
“Once the track rubbered up, it went right to where we thought it would,” said Logano in victory lane. “We were able to just stay out front most of the day after that.”
Logano had started off the second row of the grid behind polesitter Darrell Wallace Jr. and Justin Allgaier, who had taken the lead off Wallace on the opening lap and kept it for the first 13 laps before Logano could hold himself back no longer and made a move for the lead through turn 4.
After that, Logano would be out of the lead only once, for three laps, during a competition caution pre-scheduled for lap 46 after over-night rain. During the pit stops, Kasey Kahne went to the front by opting for two tyres only, but Logano immediately cleared him for the lead once more when the green flag waved again - and after that, he was immovable.
There were only two other cautions during the race, which lasted for only a little over an hour and a half. Yellows came out on lap 117 for oil on track from the #51 of Jeremy Clements, and again on lap 178 from oil from the blown engine of the #39 of Tim Andrews.
That last caution at least closed up the field and presented the possibility of an exciting 20-lap final duel to the chequered flag, but in the end Logano's domination was simply too great for anyone to dent, especially when Kasey Kahne - starting alongside Logano once again - missed a gear shift heading into turn 1 that left everyone behind him on the inside line scattering three- and four-wide to avoid him.
That gave Logano the final edge he needed to pull away from the field, finally crossing the finish line by almost a second ahead of Paul Menard: "We had a really good long-run car," said Menard after the race, which had included a fierce door-to-door battle with Kyle Busch who finished in fifth place. "I believe we were the fastest car on the track, faster than Joey, but he could just take off faster than us. I don't think he got passed all day."
The highest-paced of the Nationwide Series regulars was Michael Annett in third place: "We were fortunate on that restart with the way things played out," he said. "We would like to drive up there, but the run right before that caution we were probably the fastest car on the track. I think we restarted tenth and were driving up to sixth and still pushing forward, but that's another top five. We'll take it because our best finish up to this point was third at Daytona."
Annett was just ahead of Elliott Sadler who admitted that he'd struggled at Dover during the afternoon but had also done well out of that final restart.
"We just fought a loose race car all day," he said. "We got a pretty fortunate restart there. It was a good run all in all for us. I wish I had done a better job of getting it ready for the race, but all in all, that's a good finish for us."
Austin Dillon had been looking set for a top four finish when he was caught out by Kahne's woes at the final restart. His car rear-ended that of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and also scraped the wall, but he hung on for tenth position just behind Kahne and Stenhouse Jr. to minimise the damage to his NASCAR Nationwide Series championship hopes.
For his part, Stenhouse admitted that the #6 simply hadn't been as good as hoped for on race day.
"We struggled a lot, so we'll have to look at it. This was something a little different that we ran here that we haven't in the past," he admitted. "We did all we could to finish ninth. That was a tough race and a tough race track when it gets rubbered in, and we just didn't have any grip.
"This hasn't ever been one of our best race tracks, so I guess out of the ones left this was the one we didn't think we would be the greatest at," he added. "Today, we can't really hang our hat on anything, so we'll just go on."
Justin Allgaier suffered damage after suffering a flat tyre and ended up having to go to the garage for repairs that left him 36 laps off the pace. Sam Hornish Jr. also suffered with a flat right-rear tyre but was able to limit the damage to just going one lap down.
"Just bad racing luck," said Hornish. "You can't control getting a flat tire. Stuff happens. We ran over something and that caused a slow leak. Nothing I could do but put under green and lose all of our track position. It's a shame - I'm not sure if we would have caught the #18 or not but we were closing in on him."
As a result, Sadler's edge in the championship standings rises to 9pts over Stenhouse and Dillon drops back to 25pts behind the leader. That still leaves him in contention with five races remaining in the 2012 season, but Hornish is now 60pts off the pace in fourth place and Annett is out of any realistic contention 128pts behind Sadler.
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