Joey Logano won the Great Clips 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday afternoon, the penultimate Nationwide Series race of 2012 - but it was a disastrous late crash for Elliott Sadler that had the biggest repercussions as far as his championship battle with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was concerned.
“Another great day, another great car that Adam Stevens prepared for me to go out there and try to win this thing,” said Logano, crediting his crew chief for the win. "To go out there and lock up most poles of the year was cool and obviously this locks up most wins on the year today, so I'm excited about that."
Logano and Kyle Busch had earlier led the field to the green flag, but while Logano got a good start Busch meanwhile flew off up high complaining of a lack of front grip, dropping to sixth place through the first two corners. It was just as well for him that the field went under caution seconds later for a spin by Noel Dowler between turns 3 and 4.
Logano took off again at the restart on lap 5, with Brian Vickers (in his first series outing for Joe Gibbs Racing), Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne slotting in behind him and Busch recovering to fifth place. Meanwhile, within the first dozen laps of the race Elliott Sadler was already up to 22nd place, after having to start from the back of the grid because of damaging his primary race car in qualifying and needing to break out the backup car for the race.
Contact with Mike Harmon's sluggish #74 cost Kyle Busch a couple more on lap 28 places, but the next actual caution was on lap 31 for John Blankenship spinning in turn 2. That proved acceptable timing for the field to make its first round of pit stops of the day, which allowed Brad Keselowski to pop up into second spot as Logano led the field back round to the restart line on lap 38.
Austin Dillon made a run on Keselowski for second at the green flag, only to get loose on the inside line forcing him to check up to avoid wrecking both cars. Not only did that release Keselowski, it nearly ended with Dillon getting rear-ended by his title rival Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as he fell back to seventh position. Meanwhile the other major player in the championship battle - Elliott Sadler - had suffered a slow pit stop and now found his backup car even less to his liking during this stint after the latest round of adjustment changes. Even so, he was able to hold on to a top 20 position.
Logano was still in the lead by the time the next caution materialised for a second spin by Blankenship on lap 70. That was despite a strong challenge for the top spot from Kasey Kahne who had displaced Keselowski in second, with Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch filling out the rest of the top six.
A new round of pit stops ensued under the caution, with Logano and Kahne winning the race off pit road taking two tyres apiece while Keselowski opted for four at the cost of dropping three places. Sadler's crew made up for their earlier tardiness and put the #2 back out in eighth place, but it was Stenhouse who inherited the lead by surprisingly staying out of pit road altogether.
Stenhouse made a fight of holding on to the lead at the restart on lap 75 but his worn tyres made it just a matter of time before Logano passed on the high side. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Kahne would pass him on the low groove, but the #38 didn't have the grip and had to back out of the move - dropping positions to Dillon and Keselowski but still managing to stay ahead of Sadler.