By Jerry Bonkowski, Special to NASCAR Wire Service:
Some drivers take a vacation on an off week from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, go to the beach, play golf or just take it easy.
Not Joey Logano. Instead of relaxing on the final off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series, he decided to race in Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
It was a wise move on Logano’s part, as he took the lead on the final restart and led the final 15 laps to win his second NNS race of the season. His other win was June 1 at Dover International Speedway.
“I was okay doing nothing on the off-weekend, but you can’t say no to RP (team owner Roger Penske),” Logano said with a laugh.
“At the start of the race, I thought we had a third-place car, but we made some adjustments and got it a lot better,” Logano said.
Race leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Penkse Racing teammate Logano battled hard on the final restart, with Logano finally storming past Hornish coming out of Turn 2 on Lap 186 and never looked back.
“That was a big momentum switch for us after two bad races last weekend at New Hampshire,” Logano said. “We’re looking forward to getting to Indianapolis next weekend, we’ll be running both races and hopefully we can get some momentum from this win going forward there.”
Hornish finished second, followed by Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers.
“We would have liked to win, but you can’t complain too much with it being a 1-2 Penske finish, it was a really good thing,” Hornish said.
More importantly for Hornish, he regained the lead in the Nationwide Series points standings, passing former leader Regan Smith. Hornish now leads Smith by seven points.
“We’ve gone from being 58 points behind after Michigan to seven ahead,” Hornish said. “What we do now is try to figure out where to go from here.”
Sadler dominated early in the race from the Coors Light Pole, but struggled at the end. Still, finishing fourth was a shot in the arm, especially after being wrecked out late in last Saturday’s NNS race at New Hampshire.
“(We) should have been in victory lane, but I tried to be too greedy and keep my car too low and it bit us there at the end,” Sadler said. “We’ll have to take what it gave us, fourth-place and we’ll go on to Indy.”
The only driver in the top 10 who changed position in the standings was Allgaier, who dropped from fourth to fifth in the standings.
Sixth through 10th in the race were Parker Kligerman, Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Brad Sweet and Matt Crafton.
When Mike Bliss lost a tire on Lap 171 of the scheduled 200-lap event, all leaders pitted on the next lap, all taking four tires.
Sadler exited the pits in the lead, followed by Hornish, Logano, Dillon and Allgaier. Vickers, however, suffered a slow pit stop and dropped four spots to eighth.
Four laps later, Sadler overdrove a corner and fell from the lead to fourth, followed quickly by a caution on Lap 179 when the motor in Reed Sorenson’s car blew up, spewing oil on the track.
Hornish won the pole in qualifying Sunday morning, his first pole of the season, with Sadler alongside him on the front row. Also of note was Travis Pastrana, who started fifth, his third top-five qualifying effort in his last four starts.
Hornish dominated in the early part of the race until he pitted on Lap 49 after a caution for Harrison Rhodes’ car. Hornish was penalized for entering pit road too fast and, even though he exited in second place, the penalty dropped him back to 20th place on the restart.
But there was some consolation in that Hornish’s teammate, Logano, managed to take the lead shortly after the restart.
Sadler held the lead at the halfway point (100 laps), but a slow pit stop a few laps later seriously cost Sadler and he dropped back to second as Austin Dillon took the lead.
Pastrana’s good start didn’t quite finish that way as he suffered a tire issue on Lap 114 that sent his car careening into the wall, bringing out the fourth caution of the race.
Points leader Regan Smith was involved in a solo spin into the infield grass on Lap 128, bringing out the caution, but his Chevrolet suffered minimal damage. Smith was running 12th at the time.
Kyle Larson did not pit, choosing to stay out on old tires and took the lead on the restart on Lap 134, but quickly paid for that decision, dropping 10 spots to 11th in the next eight laps.
Of the four qualifiers in the Dash 4 Cash race-within-a-race promotion – Michael Annett, Brian Vickers, Brian Scott and Austin Dillon – it was Dillon who captured the $100,000 top prize for the second straight week and heading into the final Dash race Saturday at Indianapolis.
It was the third of four races in the Dash 4 Cash. Elliott Sadler won the first event at Daytona three weeks ago
“We had a good run,” Dillon said, adding with a chuckle. “That check goes to my grandfather (Richard Childress).”
NOTES: The race had an abbreviated start when Joey Gase blew his motor on the first lap, spewing oil all over the track, bringing out the first caution flag of the day. … Austin Dillon is going to be a very busy man in the next week. After racing Sunday, he has upcoming races Wednesday (trucks race at Eldora Speedway), the NNS race at Indianapolis on Saturday and his first Brickyard 400 on Sunday.
37. (24) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 11, $12240.
38. (32) Ken Butler, Toyota, Wheel Bearing, 10, $12186.
39. (36) Matt Dibenedetto, Dodge, Electrical, 6, $12070.
40. (26) Joey Gase, Toyota, Engine, 1, $12030.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 125.684 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 23 Mins, 13 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.291 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 32 laps.
Lead Changes: 12 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: S. Hornish Jr. 1-48; E. Sadler 49-53; J. Logano(i) 54-56; E. Sadler 57-101; A. Dillon 102; J. Logano(i) 103-107; A. Dillon 108-130; K. Larson # 131-134; J. Logano(i) 135-145; E. Sadler 146-176; J. Logano(i) 177; S. Hornish Jr. 178-185; J. Logano(i) 186-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):
E. Sadler 3 times for 81 laps; S. Hornish Jr. 2 times for 56 laps; J. Logano(i) 5 times for 35 laps; A. Dillon 2 times for 24 laps; K. Larson # 1 time for 4 laps.
Top 10 in Points: S. Hornish Jr. – 632; R. Smith – 625; A. Dillon – 624; E. Sadler – 612; J. Allgaier – 610; B. Vickers – 587; K. Larson # – 579; B. Scott – 567; T. Bayne – 563; P. Kligerman – 563.