DOVER, Del. – Joey Logano not only tamed the Monster Mile again, he again dominated it.
Logano won his fourth consecutive Nationwide Series race at Dover on Saturday afternoon after leading a race high 106 of 200 laps in the 5-hour ENERGY 200 benefiting Living Beyond Breast Cancer. He took the lead for the final time with 59 laps to go, moving past Kyle Busch who had inherited the lead while using a different pit strategy. It was the winning pass for Logano, who cruised to a 14 second victory over rookie Kyle Larson.
“We started the race too loose and they went for it. These Nationwide races are short. You’ve got to make big swings real early and I feel like Jeremy [Bullins, crew chief] and I worked enough together now that when I say loose and how loose he kind of knows how much it is and he made big swings on this thing and got it pretty close. Then we needed one more stop to just kind of fine tune it,” said Logano on his record day.
“It’s just really cool to get four-in-a-row here at Dover. That’s pretty awesome. It’s been my favorite racetrack ever since I started here, yes, even when I barrel-rolled down the back straightaway, it’s still my favorite place, and I think we showed that today. Hopefully my Shell / Pennzoil Ford tomorrow is just as fast as this one. If that’s the case, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
As it’s been for most of the 2013 NNS season, Logano and Busch were the class of the field. The two led all but five laps but Busch was done in by a different pit cycle. When the first caution of the race flew on lap 26 he stayed on track with the lead while the rest of the leaders, including Logano, came down pit road.
Busch then had to give up the lead on lap 87 for his first stop before retaking it when the rest of the field made their second and final stops. After coming down pit road with 24 laps to go he finished eighth.
Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler were the top five. Meanwhile, point leader Sam Hornish Jr. who entered the day with a 15 point lead on Austin Dillon, wasn’t able to turn his second starting position into a top five finish. Hornish struggled on Saturday, falling a lap down early before being caught speeding on pit road and losing another lap.
He finished 17th and now has only a four point advantage with five races remaining. Dillon finished sixth while Sadler moved to third in points after his top five finish.
“You can’t make one bad call and then have the driver speed on pit road and not give something up. We’ll talk about it and try to figure out how to not get ourselves in that position again,” Hornish said afterwards about the decision for two tires instead of four. “I knew we were kind of sunk at that point, but I think we still could have got out of it with a 10th or 12th place finish if I didn’t speed on pit road, but we weren’t gonna win with the strategy we had today.”
Logano’s victory was the 11th for the 22 car this season. His victory was also the first time a driver had won four consecutive NNS races at Dover while the Penske team extended their owner’s championship lead to 34 on the Joe Gibbs Racing 54 car.
“I keep telling everybody when you think about Roger Penske and his history, it’s pretty amazing to think there’s something he hasn’t won, so, for me, it’s a privilege and an honor to be part of the team tasked with that goal,” said Bullins on trying to win the owner’s title.
“So far, so good. We’ve got five weeks to go and we just got to keep pushing forward and hopefully we can finish strong and pull that off. It would be very special to fulfill that last spot in his trophy case because it’s pretty impressive to start with.”
The race featured only two cautions and went 106 green flag laps to the finish. The longest stretch in NNS history. In post race inspection, the 22 car failed when it was found to be too low on both sides in the front. NASCAR said they will look at it first thing next week.