Same cars, different results in Talladega
After a 20-minute red flag period to remove Eric McClure from his wrecked No. 14 TriStar Motorsports Toyota and repair damage to a SAFER barrier, Joey Logano Jr. got his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Kyle Busch as the two raced toward the checkered flag in the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Saturday to claim his first win at the track.
"You never know what's going to happen in these superspeedway races," Logano said in victory lane.
As McClure was airlifted to the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, the same two cars that battled for the win last weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, the No. 18 and the No. 54, finished in reverse order from a week ago with different drivers behind the wheel.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished third in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to take the points lead from previous leader, Elliott Sadler. Sadler finished the race 10th in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and fell five points behind Stenhouse after heading to Talladega with a two-point lead.
You never know what's going to happen in these superspeedway races.
With the weekend qualifying session being cancelled by rain, Sadler and Stenhouse started the race side-by-side on the front row. While Sadler ran near the front much of the race before sustaining damage to his car late in the going, Stenhouse dropped to the back early to stay out of trouble.
"We started up front and then got shuffled to the back," Stenhouse said. "I just kind of rode around and didn't push the issue too much. When I saw things getting a little hairy, I backed off and rod around."
The race featured a combination of two-car tandem drafting and big pack drafts throughout, as several drivers spent time up front.
Logano worked with Sadler through the early stages, as Busch teamed up with his brother Kurt Busch in the No. 1 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. The Busch family tandem got separated during a set of yellow-flag pit stops, though, during a caution that came out on lap 21. Kurt Busch was penalized for taking equipment out of his pit box when he pulled away with the gas can still stuck to his car.
The Busch brothers got back together a few laps later but were separated again when Kurt Busch had to made a green-flag pit stop with 37 laps remaining when his car began to overheat. As a result, he went one lap down and eventually lost a second lap on the track.
Meanwhile, Kyle Busch continued to run up front, leading at times with drafting assistance by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
Kurt Busch got both laps back, one with a caution that came out with nine laps remaining and the second when the yellow flag waved again with four laps to go.
The closing laps of the race saw two green-white-checker attempts. The second one was preceded by a red flag after a multi-car accident began near the front of the field, involving front runners like Kevin Harvick in the No. 33 Richard Childress Chevrolet and Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge, and set off a chain reaction that also collected several others, including McClure.
"I just know I got hit from behind," Harvick said. "I was a little off-set there."
Once the race resumed, there was additional heavy contact between the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge of Sam Hornish Jr and the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Danica Patrick, but it wasn't enough to bring out the yellow flag again for a third green-white-checker.
As drivers behind them were running into each other, Kyle Busch and Logano pulled away on the final lap, with Busch in the lead and Logano pushing from second. With the checkered flag in sight, Logano pulled out to pass Busch and claim the win by 0.034 seconds.
"You've got to position yourself for the end of these things," Logano said. "I didn't think we were in the right position."
Cole Whitt finished fourth in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, and Earnhardt rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch rebounded to finish sixth.