11 November 2012
Nationwide: Logano wins as Sadler crashes
A new caution came out on lap 91 for a spin by Paulie Harraka in turn 4, which was a good stroke of fortune for Stenhouse who was able to come in for his deferred pit stop and was joined in pit road by Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan Jason Leffler and a handful of others.
Logano, Keselowski and Kahne all got away cleanly at the restart on lap 95, but Sadler had problems with low air pressure causing chattering on the right rear wheel of the #2. As a result, he found himself getting dangerously high and threatening to sail up into the wall: in backing off, he plummeted to 15th position and brushed the side of Justin Allgaier's #31 in the process before managing to slot in right behind the just-pitted Stenhouse. It was just the sort of restart he couldn't afford at this point of his ailing championship campaign.
A second spin for Noel Dowler on lap 120 saw a caution which allowed all the leaders to come onto pit road, knowing that they could make it to the end of the race from here on the one tank of gas. Keselowski won the race off pit road ahead of Logano, with Vickers, Stenhouse, Busch and Dillon filling out the rest of the top six on similar two-tyre calls. Kasey Kahne dropped several spots to 11th by opting for four tyres, while Elliott Sadler was still stuck just behind him in 12th place for the restart on lap 125.
Logano saw his chance to make a play to retake the lead as Keselowski came up behind two backmarkers, but before he could make his move one of the cars ahead - Mike Wallace - tapped the back of the other - Timmy Hill - and sent the latter into a spin that could easily have wiped out one or both of the leaders in the process. Fortunately no harm was done, although Logano was annoyed to find that NASCAR wasn't going to classify him in front of Keselowski for the restart.
The race resumed on lap 154 and Logano dealt with the frustration of not being awarded the lead of the race under the caution by immediately taking it with conspicuous ease at the green flag. In any case, Keselowski was in trouble: getting too high up the race track like Sadler and Busch had done before him, he lost multiple positions while trying to determine whether he had a tyre going down or not. There were several cars struggling through the first corners, but it was finally Sam Hornish Jr. going into a massive sideways slide with help from a tap from behind courtesy of Kyle Busch that finally brought out the yellows again on lap 156, which at least allowed Keselowski to make the call to come on to pit road for new tyres under somewhat calmer circumstances,
Logano maintained the lead at the next restart on lap 160, with the #18 ahead of Stenhouse, Vickers, Busch, Brian Scott, Danica Patrick and Michael Annett; this time it was Austin Dillon in eighth place who found himself with a handful as the pack jostled around him on all sides, and he fell back ten spots trying successfully to save the car from a full-blown wreck.
Instead, it was a third spin for John Blankenship that brought out the eighth caution of the afternoon. This time there were no takers among the leaders for pit road with just 24 laps remaining to the finish, although a struggling Danica Patrick came in for four fresh tyres after dropping to 13th place in the previous run; and at least Hornish was able to get his lap back through the lucky dog free pass after his previous spin.
At the restart on lap 182, Logano safely powered off into the distance while Stenhouse came perilously close to skating out of the high line like so many others before him in the race; he held it together but lost a hard duel with Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers to drop to fourth place over the ensuing laps. That cost him two points in the championship over Dillon and Sadler, but Sadler had his own problems and nearly wrecked on lap 186 when he got wildly loose out of turn 4 onto the frontstretch. He nearly handed the championship on a plate to Stenhouse right there, but instead he managed to save the car at the cost of just one dropped spot.
Brian Vickers had just managed to wrest second place from Kyle Busch when the ninth caution of the day came out on lap 191 - and it was another hat-trick of yellows, this time for Noel Dowler whose #41 this time took a hefty front right impact into the wall in turns 3 and 4 to put his participation in the race at an end at last.
Logano took off at the restart with five laps to go, but Vickers clamped his #20 to the rear bumper of the #18 and stayed locked on target until he could line up a passing move on lap 197. But Logano was unwilling to come so far in the lead only to give up now, and he switched down to the low-line to counter-attack as Vickers' car got loose. Logano had enough to win back the lead and looked to have the whip hand to claim the win from there
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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