Joey Logano wins at Watkins Glen, saves fuel this time
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Joey Logano kept his foot on the gas pedal a little bit longer than usual after taking the checkered flag at Watkins Glen International, a huge cloud of smoke wafting toward victory lane.
This time he had more than enough left in the tank of his No. 22 Ford.
"It makes up a lot for last week," Logano said Sunday after notching his first Sprint Cup victory on a road course and second of the season. He also won the season-opening Daytona 500.
"It's nice it played out this time. We may not have had the fastest race car, but the execution of the day is what won us this race. What goes around comes around, I guess."
A week after running out of gas while leading at Pocono with three laps to go, Logano passed Kevin Harvick on the final turn of the 90-lap race as Harvick ran dry.
Logano completed the first NASCAR weekend sweep at the track after winning the Xfinity race Saturday. He also gave Roger Penske his first Cup victory at The Glen.
"It means an awful lot to Team Penske," team vice chairman Walt Czarnecki said. "I believe this is our winningest track in the whole history of our company going back to the Trans-Am and Can-Am, so this is particularly meaningful for us."
Kyle Busch, who ran out of fuel on the last lap at Pocono while leading, finished second and moved to 30th in points, the cutoff to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup title as he continued his remarkable surge.
"I had a chance. I could've raced the 22," said Busch, six points ahead of Cole Whitt and just one behind Justin Allgaier. "I felt like I was better than he was, but my crew chief (Adam Stevens) called in scared on the fuel situation from last week and I don't blame him. We didn't want to do the same thing."
Harvick coasted home third, Matt Kenseth was fourth, and Kurt Busch fifth. Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Sam Hornish Jr. and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top 10.
Tony Stewart, who qualified third, was competing at Watkins Glen for the first time after missing the previous two Cup races at the track. He was nursing a broken right leg two years ago and sat out last year's race after the sprint car he was driving in a race at nearby Canandaigua struck and killed 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr. the night before Stewart was scheduled to race at Watkins Glen.
On Friday, Stewart again had to revisit that tragedy. Attorneys representing the Ward family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart, another hurdle in what has been a season without much hope until recently, and Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Ward's death.
Stewart, a five-time winner at The Glen, was greeted warmly by fans during driver introductions but finished last after his car broke a rear gear midway through the 90-lap race.
In the last road race of his NASCAR career, Jeff Gordon had brake problems and finished 41st to take another big hit in points.
The race turned on strategy. Martin Truex Jr., who started second, pitted after a red flag just past the midpoint of the race as the top drivers stayed out.
Harvick, who pitted two laps before Truex, then gained the lead on a restart on Lap 61, passing Kenseth and pulling out to a lead of over a half-second with Truex third.
Harvick's crew told him he was two laps short on fuel as the race wound down, but he did enough conserving to salvage a podium finish.
"I thought I'd done a pretty good job of saving fuel under the caution," Harvick said. "Really, I was just running as fast as I needed to. Once the 22 got there, I had to pick up the pace."
Truex's chances disappeared when he suffered a flat left front tire and was forced to pit with 22 laps left around the 2.45-mile natural terrain course. He finished 25th.
Busch had to pit from the lead with just over 30 laps left and dropped deep in the field. He then steadily mounted an aggressive charge back and got past Harvick for second after the final turn.
"I ran hard that whole run," said Busch, who has won four races since coming back from a broken leg and foot suffered in an Xfinity race at Daytona in February that forced him to miss the first 11 races of the Cup season. "I never quite got close enough to him. I couldn't afford to run out of gas."