Fontana, CA-Auto Club Speedway 3/24/2012
Joey Logano showed dominant form today as he won from pole in the Royal Purple 300 driving the Translux Toyota for Joe Gibbs racing. Gibbs has a 2012 win streak now at 8. Laogano, 21, celebrates his 10th Nationwide victory from 92 starts. Up and comer Ricky Steinhouse Jr and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top three in a race that had some great wheel to wheel and four wide action.
The Royal Purple 300 started with all the fanfare that a NASCAR fan could expect…. from the driver intros to the flyover by Air Force Jets. From the green flag, it looked like pole sitter Joey Lagano was just going to check out–as he led the top three Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski away from the pack.
Just before the first round of pit stops which came at laps 37 and 38, Keselowski made a move in traffic on Allgaier and rapidly closed ranks with Logano…. A four lap dice came to an end as Keselowski took the lead and kept it on lap 27.
One third into the race and it has been quick–without incident. The usual suspects pulled out early to collect their starting money, pack it up and head for the next 3-lap event.
The caution waved, for the first time, on lap 57 for debris. This got the teams a jump start on their second round of pit stops and an opportunity to bunch the pack back up. Interestingly, there has been little or no drafting. The cars had spread out in almost road race fashion. During the post race interview, Keselowski, Steinhouse and Dillon wrangled with me on this: Steinhouse commented he felt there was a lot…. Keselowski smiled and added “what do you want? Every lap? Every Corner?” While I agree there was probably enough pushing to give these guys a few “big moments” but maybe I do miss the nonstop nose to tail hookups for laps at a time….
During the round of stops Logano grabbed back the lead off pit road as Keselowski lost 8 positions due to interferrence from one of his tire changers. With the pack bunched up again behind the pace car, the debris cleaned from 58-62 allowing Brad Sweet to get his lap back. As the green dropped, Logano again took the lead over Elliot Sadler… but Sadler got low on Logano and took the lead over Ricky Stenhouse and Justin Allgaier.
Sadler seemed to lose momentum and Logano pounced back into the top spot in a good dice. He fell back to fourth as Steinhouse took to chasing Logano. Allgaier got the jump on two cars as they went three wide into 3 and four….
A three way dice went on for a number of laps as the leaders bolstered each other and kept the motivation up like a flock of geese heading south.
On lap 65 Danica patrick called it quits citing an oil pressure problem–no biggie… she never got higher than 20th and was immediately falling back after the caution period.
Kyle Busch made a mid race charge after a round of pit stops brought on from a spin by Sam Hornish Jr..on lap 96. Logano continued the chase.
Allgaier faded at lap 105. Before he even made the silent turn into the garages off pit lane, his crew was already packing it up after dropping to seventh then out.
With the goodyear blimp casting a shadow over the straightaway, Keselowski bump drafted leader Busch, who then faded as Logano made his move and raced to catch Keslowski.
With 20 to go Logano and Kesolowski continued to battle ahead of Busch, Stenhouse, Trevor Bayne and Brendan Gaughan…. Most wondered if the fuel and tires would hold out for the leaders from the last pit stop at lap 105 when a yellow was thrown for debris.
A yellow waved on lap 133 as Blake Koch looped it coming out of four–luckily making no impact. Splash and go time. The crews lined the wall with 2 tires for the right sides and a splash of fuel. Koch made it to the pit with a shredded front left tire and returned to the action.
An impressive drive from Chicago/Wisconsin area hero Erik Darnell staying down on;y 3 laps–in the Curtis Plumbing Chevrolet–with teamates scott speed, who has not had a career recovery since disappearing from F1, josh wise and chase miller all dropping out of the race early.
With 12 to go, the field was green flag racing again with leader Trevor Bayne, Elliot Sadler and Joey Logano, gunning for the lead. Logano made a daring move to the inside on turn one. Pushing Bayne wide. By lap 139 four wide racing saw Logano, Busch, Sadler continuing to dice…
By lap 141 Logano checked out again Steinhouse and Keseloski dicing for second position exchanging position many times during the lap.
Brian Scott Chased behind in Fourth.
As the laps wound down, Logano seemed to just have more muscle and the right driving line, up high in the corners, keeping ahead of an increasingly strung out field with Steinhouse fully keeping second from Keselowski, Scott and Dillon. They held those positions to the end as the checker waved for Joey Logano who looks to have a very long and prosperous future in the Series!
Congratulations to Joe Gibbs Racing once again showing winning form with Logano’s win at Fontana!
Now it is almost F1 time from Malaysia….