Fifth-Place Nationwide Series Finish at Memphis; Puts No. 20 JGR Toyota Back on Top in Owner Points Joey Logano scored his best NASCAR Nationwide Series finish since his second-place effort July 19 at Gateway International Raceway in ...
Fifth-Place Nationwide Series Finish at Memphis; Puts No. 20 JGR Toyota Back on Top in Owner Points
Joey Logano scored his best NASCAR Nationwide Series finish since his second-place effort July 19 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., by driving the No. 20 GameStop Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to fifth place in Saturday's Kroger On Track for the Cure 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn.
The 18-year-old Middletown, Conn., native, who was scheduled to attempt his fourth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday in the No. 02 Home Depot Toyota Camry for JGR, made it to Memphis in time to qualify his Nationwide Series car after Sprint Cup qualifying in Atlanta was rained out Friday night and sent the No. 02 team home for the weekend. He took a conservative approach around the .75-mile oval, which he saw for the very first time just prior to qualifying, and put the GameStop machine 24th on the grid for the scheduled 250-lap event.
Despite a nagging loose handling condition at the start, Logano was able to pick off car after car on his way to the front of the pack. He cracked the top-20 by lap 18, but the team opted to give up track position in favor of changes to improve his car by pitting under caution on lap 29. He resumed in 22nd, but then mounted an even more productive march toward the front during a lengthy, 97-lap green-flag run. Lap after lap, he picked off car after car once again, reaching the top-10 by lap 34, the top-five by lap 69, and third place behind Carl Edwards and Mike Bliss by lap 73. Logano got by Bliss for second place shortly before pitting a second time under caution on lap 127. By this stage, Logano's was one of only five cars on the lead lap.
Amazingly, Logano held down the second position behind Edwards from lap 117 to lap 241, nine laps from the scheduled finish, when the team gambled on pitting under caution for sticker tires in hopes they would help Logano catch Edwards once and for all. The stop dropped Logano back to sixth, and with another yellow on lap 245, there turned out to be not enough green-flag laps left for Logano to get the job done. He got by Chase Miller on the final lap to secure a top-five finish, his best since his first career victory at Kentucky Speedway in June, followed by back-to-back second-place finishes at The Milwaukee Mile and Gateway.
"It was a last minute decision," Logano said of the decision to pit on lap 241 for fresh tires while the other five cars on the lead lap opted to stay on track. "Personally, I thought it was a no-brainer to come in and see if we could get in front. We weren't going to beat Carl (Edwards), and I was pretty sure the (No.) 99 (David Reutimann) was going to pass us. So our best-case scenario was we were going to finish third, or worst-case was sixth. I thought, 'Hey, what the heck -- go for it.' We only had a set of stickers in the pits here, so I didn't get enough heat in them. They take a while at this track. They take five or six laps to come in and I didn't have six (green) laps. So by the time they came in, it was over.
"The whole GameStop crew did great. Casey Atwood (who practiced the car on Friday) did a great job getting this car ready for me to drive it today. They worked hard in the pits all day adjusting it. We had a good pit strategy in the beginning. Overall, it's a good plus. We gained a lot of points over the (No.) 2 (Richard Childress Racing) car, which is another plus. I came here earlier than we had planned and went around a few laps with Mike McLaughlin and Casey Atwood just trying to get to know the race track a little bit to see what I needed to do. In qualifying I felt blindfolded, and then got to get going in the race and figure out what we needed to do to get the car running well. I think we did well for never being here before. I'll take another top-five to get back in the spirit again. I'm pretty excited we have a fast car again, so we'll head to Texas and it will all be great."
Logano's fifth-place finish put the No. 20 back in first place in the Nationwide Series owner standings. With 4,706 points, it now sits 39 points ahead of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing entry.
Edwards won the Kroger On Track for The Cure 250 to score his 18th career Nationwide Series victory, his fifth of the season and his first at Memphis. Edwards beat runner-up David Reutimann by 0.147 of second, followed in the top-five by Kenny Wallace, Austin Dillon and Logano. Chase Miller, Bliss, David Ragan, Steve Wallace and David Stremme comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Logano's JGR teammate, Marc Davis, finished 23rd in his Nationwide Series debut.