It doesn't happen often in any of NASCAR's three national-level championships. It's never happened before at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Xfinity Series. But on Saturday afternoon Joey Logano managed to take the lead at the start of the Drive To Stop Diabetes 300, and two hours later he was still there when the chequered flag came out.
No one else had led a single lap all afternoon, making it the first time that one driver had been in charge for an entire Xfinity race since Kyle Busch managed it at Richmond International Raceway almost exactly a year ago. Busch had led 250 laps on that occasion, but this time Logano had led for 300 at Bristol making for a new series record.
No one else really looked likely to get the better of Logano, either. It was a display of complete domination by the Penske driver as he notched up his 23rd victory in 138 starts in the championship; it is the 24-year-old's second win of the year and his second at Bristol.
"I've never led every single lap in a race before," Logano said in victory lane after the race. "The whole time, I was so nervous that something would happen ... You're waiting for something to go wrong. It's such a fast car. All those late cautions, you're like, 'Where am I going to blow this thing?'
"It's such a fun thing to win at Bristol. It's Bristol! Any time you win here, it's neat," he added. "This is fun, amazing ... What a perfect day!"
CLICK: Full race results from Bristol Motor Speedway and current Xfinity Series championship standings.
The only thing that Logano hadn't been able to do was to win pole position for the race. That honour had gone to Joe Gibbs Racing' Erik Jones, who one week after clinching his maiden Xfinity win managed to become the youngest series pole winner at Bristol Motor Speedway when the 18-year-old took the top spot in qualifying with a lap of 15.331s (125.158mph) to edge Logano by 0.048s and claim a remarkable third pole position in just ten starts in the championship.
But when it came to the race itself, there was only one person out in front: Logano moved to the bottom line the minute the race got underway and made an easy pass on Jones to lead the first lap which was quickly under caution when Eric McClure went for a spin in turn 4 as he tried and failed to hang on to the high line. Logano took off at the restart leaving Jones with half an eye on the scrap between Austin Dillon and Brian Scott for third place. Dillon won that one and then hunted down and passed Joned for second on lap 17 but Logano was already two seconds down the road and even at this early stage was making an afternoon snack of the tail end backmarkers.
Having stated from sixth place, it was only a matter of time before Kevin Harvick cruised past Jones and Dillon to take up second place in the #88 JR Motorsports entry on lap 42, just as Logano started to get bogged down in heavy traffic. A caution on lap 56 for fluid on the track from Derrike Cope's car saw everyone pit for the first time, Logano emerging to resume his lead ahead of Denny Hamlin who had got the jump on Jones and Harvick, while Dillon got slapped with a pit lane speeding penalty and sent to the back of the lead lap.
A missed gear dropped Jones back in the field and left Logano fighting off Harvick while Hamlin and Scott scraped over third. Logano managed to hold on tot he lead but was only able to pull out a slender lead over Harvick who was watching for any chance to pounce as the leaders once again hit lapped traffic, with only 18 cars left on the lead lap by lap 87. No opportunity presented itself and Logano started to pull away again at the front when a new caution came out on lap 119 for more fluid on the track, this time apparently from Hamlin who had been forced to come down pit lane and ended up heading straight for the garage area for the JGR crew to get to work on a broken rear end gear.
Logano beat Harvick off pit road ahead of RCR team mates Ty Dillon and Brian Scott, with Regan Smith this time the recipient fo a pit lane speeding penalty that cost him fifth place at the restart that went instead to his JR team mate, reigning Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott, who was followed in turn by Roush Fenway Racing's Darrell Wallace Jr. and JGR's Daniel Suarez.
The next round of pit stops came under caution for Jeremy Clements spinning in turn 2 on lap 173, and once again there was a significant speeding penalty - this time aimed at Harvick which cost him second place at the restart. Harvick attempted to make lemonade from the bitter situation, seeking strategic advantage by pitting under a rapid encore debris caution on lap 182 but the circumstances were against him. Logano was still out in front, although he was also out of fresh tyres so the victory was by no means a foregone conclusion.
David Starr got loose and into the wall on lap 194 to bring out the sixth caution of the afternoon. Logano again eased away from Jones and Scott at the restart but a new caution was out on lap 206 when JJ Yeley took a huge impact in the wall in turn 2 which required a ten-minute red flag to be shown while damage to the catchfence caused by a piece of the #28's front splitter was repaired.
Logano pulled away again at the restart while JGR team mates Jones and Suarez had a fierce debate over who was going to take the shotgun position. Suarez was the argument but he was already over a second off the race leader, while Jones now had his hands full with Roush's Chris Buescher rapidly closing in from behind. There was one final wrinkle to the proceedings when Clements crashed again on lap 280 to set up a final 13-lap sprint finish, but that was no problem for Logano who completed his mission and claimed the chequered flag without further ado.
"Today was one of those days because our car was able to move around the race track really well and that was something that paid off," said Logano after clinching the win. "Obviously winning the race is the ultimate goal no matter what, but you also don't want to let anyone by for half-a-lap because you want to be able to say you've led every lap. That's something pretty cool to be able to say, so I ran pretty hard the whole race just trying to achieve the goal of leading every lap and ultimately the last one. But the last thing I wanted to do was lead every one but the last one!"
Suarez also made history as he finished in second place 1.172s behind Logano, clinching the best-ever series finish by a Mexican-born driver after narrowly holding off Buescher, who had in turn managed to get the better of Jones in the final minutes of the race despite running on older tyres. Ty Dillon held on to fifth place from Chase Elliott, with Kevin Harvick only managing to recover to seventh place following his pit lane penalty. Brian Scott, Brendan Gaughan and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top ten at the finish line.
In the Xfinity Series championship standings, Buescher and RCR's Ty Dillon are tied for the lead on 258 points, 12 ahead of Chase Elliott. In the owners standings, Logano's win in the #22 contributes to a 20 point lead for Roger Penske over Rick Hendrick, the nominated owner of Harvick's #88.
The Xfinity Series is back in action next weekend at Richmond International Raceway for a Friday night race.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Xfinity Series championship standings.
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