In a race that was won by a choice on pit road, rather than by speed on the race track, Joey Logano parlayed a strategic late-race call into victory in Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 200 Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway.
Logano trailed race leader Kyle Busch by five seconds with 40 laps left, but a two-tire under the fifth and final caution got Logano out front for a restart with 34 laps left, while a four-tire choice on the same pit stop buried Kyle Busch in traffic and changed the course of the race.
The victory was Logano’s first of the season, his third straight at the Monster Mile and the 19th of his career. Brian Vickers ran second, .576 seconds behind Logano. Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Trevor Bayne. Busch passed Sam Hornish Jr. for the fifth spot in the closing laps.
“It feels great to get back in Victory Lane,” Logano said. “This is my favorite race track. I love coming up to the Northeast — that’s where I’m from (Connecticut)…
“Really the winning call was on that last pit stop, when (crew chief) Jeremy (Bullins) made an audible and decided to do two tires.”
Bullins made the decisive call after observing that Busch was taking four and that there were enough other cars taking two tires to form a buffer between Logano and Busch.
Bullins said he made the snap decision as his crew was dropping the jack on the right side of the car.
“We had to let the jack man run around, but, luckily for us, there was still enough room for us to let the jack man come around the front of the car, leave pit road and still come out with the lead,” Bullins said. “That was really the difference. It was late (making) the call, but that’s just the way it plays out, and a lot of times you have to make a split decision like that.”
Kasey Kahne was an integral part of the third caution, on Lap 113, when he made Mike Wallace pay for repeatedly holding him up by punting Wallace’s car off Turn 2. Kahne used the opportunity to grab the race lead, thanks to a two-tire call under the yellow on Lap 114.
Kahne held off Busch after the restart on Lap 121, but a quick caution a lap later — after Reed Sorenson’s Chevy stalled at the exit from pit road — gave Busch another shot at a restart on Lap 129. Busch cleared Kahne into Turn 1 on the restart lap and opened a lead of nearly one second.
But a caution for Dexter Stacey’s spinoff Turn 4 on Lap 161 turned the race upside-down.
Busch and Kahne took four tires on a Lap 163 pit stop under caution, while nine other lead-lap cars went with two-tire calls and came out ahead of Busch and Kahne, who restarted 10th and 11th, respectively.
Mired in traffic, Busch struggled to move forward, and Logano, who led the field to green on Lap 167, drove away.
Vickers, the 2003 Nationwide Series champion, mirrored Logano’s tire strategy on the final caution and left the track with the satisfaction of a runner-up finish — but with an unsated hunger for a victory.
“Today was a good run for us,” said Vickers, who is in his inaugural Nationwide season with Joe Gibbs Racing. “As much as I want to win, I can’t deny that. We’ve got to take those moments when they come. Starting with a new team, a new organization, a new crew chief, a new everything this year, it’s most certainly taken us a little bit of time, probably a little longer than we wanted to really get into the rhythm of things.”