Joe Gibbs Racing had possession of both front row spots on a green-white-checker restart in the Great Clips 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, with the No. 18 Toyota of Joey Logano in the lead and the No. 20 Toyota of Brian Vickers in second. When the green flag waved, Logano drove away to claim his ninth series win of the season.
"They didn't make it easy on me," Logano said. "The car was loose the first couple of laps on restarts, but then it got better."
They didn't make it easy on me.
The win may not have come easy, but Logano made it look simple, leading 168 laps in the race that had a scheduled distance of 200 circuits. As Logano drove away on the final lap, Vickers held off the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to finish second. Stenhouse was third.
Stenhouse got to the front, at first, by pit strategy. He stayed out while the leaders pitted during a caution that came out on lap 69 to restart with the lead. But as soon as the race returned to green, Logano was back up front.
Stenhouse took his turn on pit road the next time the yellow flag waved, pitting for four tires during a lap 90 caution, while other frontrunners opted to stay out.
"We worked really hard," Stenhouse said. "(Crew chief) Mike (Kelley) made some great calls -- staying out and then taking four."
The only driver to get in front of Logano and stay there for a significant amount of time was Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. Like Stenhouse, Keselowski beat Logano off of pit road to restart with the lead following a caution that came out on lap 120. It took Logano until the next restart that came after a lap 148 caution to get the top spot back.
Stenhouse made his way back toward the front and ran within the top-five for much of the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, his closest championship competition, Elliott Sadler in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, struggled. He had to start in the back in a backup car after wrecking in qualifying earlier in the day.
Sadler quickly made his way toward the top-10 in the early laps, but losing spots on pit road multiple times and then heading back onto the race track to lose more spots on restarts kept him outside the top-10 for most of the race. Things then went from bad to worse when Sadler made contact with the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Cole Whitt and then the wall with two laps to go. He wound up with a 22nd-place finish and went from tied with Stenhouse atop the championship points standings to 20 points back in second.
Kyle Busch finished fourth in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, and the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Finishing sixth through 10th were the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon, the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Michael Annett, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Brian Scott, Keselowski and the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Danica Patrick.