WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Recap by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America photo —
Prior to this weekend, Joey Logano had never won a race on a road course, let alone a weekend sweep at that kind of place. He can now check both of those items after watching Kevin Harvick run out of fuel in the final set of turns to take the win in the 30th Annual Cheez-It 355 at the Glen.
The event ran in front of a sellout crowd of reserved seats and camping, a Watkins Glen first for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Logano rolled off the grid 16th for today’s event after winning Saturday’s Zippo 200 with his Cup crew chief Todd Gordon and his Cup No. 22 pit crew.
Watkins Glen is always a race that teams run backwards based on fuel mileage and pit strategy and Sunday’s race was no different. Early on, it was A.J. Allmendinger taking the lead from the pole position as he looked to go back-to-back at Watkins Glen in the JTG Daugherty Race Team’s push to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Allmendinger led laps one to twenty before surrendering the lead to outside pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. Allmendinger complained that he had lost the back tires on the N0. 47 that took them to victory lane in 2014.
The first caution flag of the day came out on lap 26, as Greg Biffle had a rear tire go down and come apart, spreading debris across the racetrack. This set up a restart where the day went down hill for Denny Hamlin.
On a lap 33 restart, Hamlin made heavy contact with the back end of the driver lined up in front of him, which sheared the hood pins off the hood of the FedEx No. 11. Not long after, Hamlin’s hood flew up against the windshield and blocked his visibility. Amazingly, Hamlin made another full lap around the 2.45 mile road course but had to pit before being black flagged to come in by NASCAR.
The next yellow came out on lap 33 as a piece of debris came off of Hamlin’s car after the crew severed the hood from the car on pit road. It turned out to be helpful for Hamlin, as it allowed him to come back down pit road for repairs and let the team make a plan to attempt to fix the car. At the end of the day, Hamlin came home in the 27th position.
Several cars had problems in Turn 1 early on, as first it was Justin Allgaier looping his HScott Motorsports entry on lap 37 after contact with Jimmie Johnson. Lap 40 saw Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon make contact and do synchronized spinning in the corner referred to by many as “The 90”. Larson recovered to come back and battle for the win, but was relegated to 12th based on how the fuel mileage played out at the end. Allgaier finished 19th after having his best Sprint Cup Series qualifying effort of 12th on Saturday.
A lap 47 yellow flag for Austin Dillon, who had crashed on the backstretch, saw some teams play the fuel mileage and tire strategy game on pit road. As the field bunched back up for the restart, calamity ensued which would put several drivers out of contention.
Jamie McMurray was the victim of cars brake checking on the restart, as he plowed into the back of the car in front of him, ruining the radiator on the McDonald’s ride and laying down a tremendous amount of fluid on the front stretch, through Turn 1 and headed toward the Esses. Kasey Kahne did the same thing, causing heavy damage to the nose of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5- to end his day.
The caution flag was where AJ Allmendinger’s day really went South as the driver of the No. 47 lost power in between Turns 6 and 7. Allmendinger was trying to cycle the engine on and off to conserve fuel when the car would not refire. Allmendinger was pushed to pit road where the team replaced the battery and reset the EFI system to allow their driver to rejoin the field.
The field would eventually be brought to a stop for a nine minute and 3 second Red Flag to allow for thorough track cleanup. At the time of the red flag, Brad Keselowski was leading Carl Edwards, Truex, Kyle Busch and David Ragan.
The restart saw Busch and Keselowski put on a battle that the fans at the Glen are used to seeing between those two drivers as they wrestled through the Esses for the lead. Busch took the lead on lap 56 and it looked like the driver trying get within the top 30 in points might just do so with another victory at Watkins Glen.
Just one lap later, Tony Stewart reported a possible gear problem and came to a stop and brought out the caution flag. This is where Joey Logano was able to capitalize and make a move that helped put them in position to win the race.
After pitting during the lap 47 yellow, Logano’s team was able to bring him back down pit road on the lap 57 caution to do fuel only to win the race off pit road. Meanwhile, Busch and team knew that they had a lot of work to do as they led the field down pit road, but had to take 4 tires and fuel.
Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth led the field to the green flag on lap 60, with Harvick taking the lead into the esses from Kenseth. Logano started 13th on that restart and would bull his way to the front, knowing he was safe on fuel to the scheduled distance. He also knew that the leaders of the pack were either very close or quite short on fuel to the scheduled distance.
Kyle Busch also began his charge to the front behind Logano. With 20 to go, Logano moved up to 5th with Busch riding in 8th. Once Logano got to the top-five, the leaders began to slow the pace down to save fuel- a move that the Shell Pennzoil, Team Penske team told Logano was not part of their strategy to win. They pushed Logano to push the leaders hard to try and run them out of fuel.
Lap 68 saw early leader Truex have a left-front flat tire going through Turn 7 and nearly making contact with the wall. Truex saved the car and made it to the pit road, but not before missing the commitment line to add insult to injury. Truex exited the pits from the flat tire to bring home a 25th place finish.
With 13 laps to go, some drivers had to back down to save fuel to make it to the end including Earnhardt Jr. He struggled in the inner loop and saw both Logano and Busch go by to dropkick him from fourth to sixth and move those hard charging drivers into the top five.
Logano took over third place with ten laps remaining and the crew reminded him of trying to run the leaders out of gas, while still needing to save for any possible green-white-checkered laps.
“I’d get by those guys and then save,” was the call from crew chief Todd Gordon, who originally hailed from Camden, N.Y.
Busch’s crew was also concerned about fuel for a green-white-checkered finish as they felt that a late caution could come out with any of the two leaders that may see them stop on the track.
Logano moved into second position with eight laps to go and started putting pressure on Harvick to run hard. Busch moved into third with five laps to go but backed his pace off, still trying to save fuel for any late cautions. This move also practically guaranteed that they elevated their points position into the top 30, which they need to do before Richmond to qualify for the Chase.
As the leaders took the white flag, Harvick’s crew told the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion that they were expecting to run out at any moment. Logano overshot Turn 1 and went way high exiting as the pair headed for the esses. Harvick opened up a big lead through the inner loop and carousel, but the Budweiser No. 4 started to sputter down the dog-leg that leads to the final set of corners.
Logano pulled up on the back bumper of Harvick in Turn 6, made his move in Turn 7 and rocketed to the lead on the exit of Turn 7. As Logano made the pass for the lead, the checkered flag was in the air and Logano became the 20th driver to win at Watkins Glen, securing his second win of 2015 and bringing home Roger Penske’s first victory in the Sprint Cup Series as an owner. Busch beat Harvick to the line for second, with Kenseth and Kurt Busch rounding out the top five.
“I was running down Harvick there for a little bit and once I got close to him he started to pick up his pace a little bit, which was good because I needed him to run out of gas,” Logano said in Victory Lane.
“I thought he (Harvick) was running out of gas out of the carousel there. You could tell his car was slowing down a little bit and then it really slowed down.”
This was the first time that a driver had swept both the XFinity Series and Sprint Cup Series races in the same weekend, which made the sweep special for Logano.
“It’s pretty cool to get a road course win. It means so much to me and sweeping the weekend, I’ve never swpet a weekend before so this is a really, really special weekend.”
For crew chief Todd Gordon, this was also a sweep at a track that is closest to his hometown of Camden, NY, a track where he first came to watch a race back in the early 90’s.
“Yeah, this one is pretty special,” Gordon said.
“For the Glen wins, this is the top of it. Obviously in ’11 it was pretty big for me to win back home. That was the first win here in the Nationwide Series then. But to come here and execute on a Cup level is awesome because it’s back home. You know, this is New York State, and this is two-and-a-half hours from where I grew up. I came here and watched races here before I moved South to go racing.”
The next time the Sprint Cup Series takes to the track is next weekend at Michigan International Speedway with Pure Michigan 400.
RESULTS: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Series; 30th Annual Cheez-It at the Glen; August 9, 2015
- Joey Logano
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Matt Kenseth
- Kurt Busch
- Clint Bowyer
- Brad Keselowski
- Carl Edwards
- Sam Hornish Jr.
- Jimmie Johnson
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kyle Larson
- Paul Menard
- Greg Biffle
- Ryan Newman
- Aric Almirola
- Danica Patrick
- Casey Mears
- Justin Allgaier
- Michael McDowell
- Cole Whitt
- Trevor Bayne
- David Ragan
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Denny Hamlin
- Alex Kennedy
- Alex Bowman
- J.J. Yeley
- Michael Annett
- Boris Said
- David Gilliland
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Landon Cassill
- Austin Dillon
- Chris Buescher
- Timmy Hill
- Jeb Burton
- Jamie McMurray
- Jeff Gordon
- Kasey Kahne
- Tony Stewart