CLICK: Full race results and Nationwide Series championship standings.
Saturday afternoon's Dover 200 Nationwide event at Dover International Speedway was all about who could get and keep control of the lead, and while Joey Logano was more than up to the task for the first half of the race he was unable to do anything about Kyle Busch getting out in front during a crucial mid-race round of pit-stops, and after that Busch was untouchable for the rest of the day. All that Logano could do then was to follow him home in second place ahead of series leader Chase Elliott.
"Our day was really good,” said Busch, after taking his fifth win of the year as well as his fifth career win at Dover in the Nationwide Series. “From the start of the green flag, we had a good race ... We were a little sceptical of it yesterday but the guys did a good job of making adjustments for today."
"It was nice to put together a good run and hopefully carry that into tomorrow," he added, already looking forward to Sunday's crucial Sprint Cup Chase race that will decide which 12 drivers will progress to the Contender Round of the play-offs.
Earlier in the day, Logano had successfully claimed his 25th series pole position and his second of the year for the start of the race with a lap of 23.230s (154.972mph), the Penske driver claiming a slender 0.016s advantage over JR Motorsport's Chase Elliott. Former IndyCar driver Milka Duno was one of two drivers to fail to make the starting grid based on their laptimes.
When the green flag came out, Logano held off Elliott to lead the first nine laps before contact with Derrike Cope sent Jamie Dick into the frontstretch inside wall to bring out the first caution, with last week's Brendan Gaughan heading to the garage to address a separate suspension issue. Logano retained the lead at the restart on lap 15 with Chris Buescher assuming second place ahead of Elliott, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch.
However, Elliott was caught up in the second caution on lap 39 when Kevin Swindell turned down while exiting turn 4 and ran into Tanner Berryhill putting both cars into the inside wall and leaving Elliott with some damage to the splitter and nose of the #9. Elliott needed an extended stay on pit lane to effect repairs that dropped him back to 24th place.
"We were just biding our time that first run," said Elliott of the incident. "I made a mistake following those guys way too closely and that was completely my fault. I drove ourselves into a wreck and then we couldn't get back up to the front."
The ensuing round of pit stops also saw Larson penalised when his refueller was unable to disengage the fuel can and got dragged out of the pit stall. That saw Larson put to the back of the lead lap alongside Elliott for the restart, which Logano continued to be in control of with Brian Scott now up to second ahead of Buescher and Busch. Busch gradually moved his way into second place but as the midpoint of the 200-lap race approached Logano had eased out a four second lead over the rest of the field when a new caution came out for fluid on the track from Matt DiBenedetto's car. Elliott had already rebounded to fifth place after his earlier repairs, but Larson was still outside the top ten after his own pit stop hold-up last time around.
Following a second round of pit stops under yellow, the Joe Gibbs Racing crew ensured that Busch narrowly won the race off pit road with Logano in second ahead of Elliott Sadler followed in turn by Buescher, Scott and Elliott. Busch took advantage of the clear air at the front to power off into the distance, leaving Logano having to work hard to hold off Chase Elliott who had succeeded in immediately jumping up to third place at the green flag on lap 103.
A debris caution with 53 laps to go allowed everyone to make the crucial final round of pit stops under yellow, the leaders all opting to prioritise track position and taking two tyres and fuel only so that the top four of Busch, Logano, Elliott and Buescher all maintained position for the restart on lap 153 with Busch once again managing to clear Logano for the lead and take off to a safe margin. With no further cautions on offer for the remainder of the race, Busch was able to keep control of the lead while Logano focused on ensuring that Elliott didn't pass him for second as the laps counted down to the chequered flag.
"The first half of the race went perfect," said Logano. "We were able to have a very fast Hertz Mustang that could go out there and lead a lot of laps, be very, very fast and as the race went we came in and put four tyres on and lost the lead.
"Our car was really tight from there on," he continued. "I don't really understand why yet, so we'll try to figure it out and look at our car and see if our adjustment affected something else or what happened there. We'll try to figure that one out because these Nationwide races are so short that when you put four tyres on and it doesn't act just right and you've got to put two on the next time you're not able to have the opportunity to try to fix your car."
But Logano was pleased with what he'd learned in advance of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at the same venue: "I think tomorrow will be better with the added horsepower of the Cup cars and it seems guys move around a lot more up the race track and all that," he suggested. "So I think when cars are able to do that at least you can search and get a little bit of air and be able to pass a little bit better – at least get the cars a little bit better.
"When you don't have much horsepower the shortest distance seems to be the best because you don't have a bunch of power to try to bolt on an exit, so I think that's why we see that in Nationwide cars."
Buescher held on for a solid fourth place finish ahead of Elliott Sadler, who had been the highest-placed of the drivers to have tried a four-tyre strategy at the final round of stops. Kyle Larson battled his way back to sixth place after his early setback, which was compounded by a second penalty later in the race for speeding on pit lane. Brian Scott finished close behind in seventh just ahead of Regan Smith.
Elliott's third place finish means that he extends his lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship over Smith to 26 points, with no changes in position in the standings among the top 23 drivers. In the owners' championship, Logano's Penske #22 still leads by 32 points over Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing #54.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.