At the track where he scored his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in 2009, New England native Joey Logano went to victory in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Logano took the lead with 27 laps to go and was able to survive two more restarts for his seventh career win. With his fourth win of the season, Logano will advance to the second round of NASCAR’s Chase joining his teammate Brad Keselowski.
“It feels good to go into the next one,” Logano said in victory lane. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing though. We’ve got to keep our eye on the prize and think about the big trophy at the end.”
Logano first took the lead on lap 171 during a round of pit stops. But on lap 245, Logano pitted and took four tires while the rest of the lead group stayed out. By lap 261 though, Logano had fought his way back and retook the lead for the final time on lap 273.
“This is my home race track, the coolest place to win for me,” Logano said. “I could never pick a better race track to win. I watched my first Cup race here when I was five and I won that other Cup race here, but I just felt like I had to win one the right way here, and this means so much. “
The bigger story of the day were the troubles for several of the drivers in the Chase. Denny Hamlin, Kurt and Kyle Busch along with Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth all suffered crashes in a race that saw a season high 15 caution flags. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had issues on pit road and Keselowski also spun and crashed, but both were able to rally back along with Kyle Busch; Earnhardt finished ninth, Keselowski seventh and Busch eighth. Kenseth finished 21st, Kahne 23rd, Gordon 26th, Kurt Busch 36th and Hamlin 37th.
Polesitter Keselowski jumped out to an early lead followed by Hamlin, as Jamie McMurray fell into a distant third, Jimmie Johnson fourth, Kevin Harvick fifth. By lap 20 Keselowski had caught the rear of the field, and Harvick had caught Johnson. Harvick was able to get by for fourth by lap 29.
Due to overnight rains, NASCAR called a completion caution on lap 35; the first of the day. The leaders all pitted but most of the lead group took only two tires. Hamlin led off pit road, McMurray was second, Joey Logano third, Harvick fourth and Johnson fifth. As he did here in July, Keselowski’s crew had already said they would take only four tires on stops; he restarted 15th.
Logano dove to the inside on the restart as McMurray fell back. Hamlin assumed the lead, Harvick was second, Kyle Busch third, Logano fourth, and Brian Vickers fifth. Keselowski soon fell back to 22nd. By lap 50, Logano had taken over third from Busch. By lap 57, Hamlin was in traffic and Harvick was reeling him in while Keselowski had fought his way to 17th. Harvick was finally able to get by Hamlin for the lead on lap 71. By lap 88 Harvick’s lead was just over two seconds.
Hamlin had to make a green flag stop on lap 96 after his crew reported that they didn’t get enough fuel in during the first stop. The second caution of the day came out for debris on lap 105, just as the field was preparing for green flag stops. Harvick won the race off pit road as all the leaders took four tires; Logano was second, Jeff Gordon third, Vickers fourth and McMurray fifth. Keselowski’s crew helped him regain some spots as he left eighth. Hamlin had to re-pit as the crew had to repair the fuel probe on his Toyota; he would go four laps down and fall to 41st.
The restart came on lap 113; Harvick was able to go back to the point on the outside of Logano. Gordon took over third from Vickers four laps later. Both Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were forced to re-pit with loose wheels. Both came back out a lap down.
At the halfway point, Harvick’s lead over Logano was 1.7 seconds.
The third caution came out for debris on lap 171. The leaders all came in for stops. Logano won the race off pit road, Harvick was second, Gordon third, Vickers fourth and Keselowski fifth. The green came out on lap 178; Logano got a great restart and got a big lead ahead of Harvick.
The fourth caution came out for a crash on lap 181 in turn 2 involving Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, David Ragan, and Cole Whitt. Truex got loose under Justin Allgaier and spun setting off the crash. Ragan’s day was done; Hamlin limped his Toyota to the garage with heavy damage.
The restart came on lap 187 and Logano again got a good restart and powered to the lead. A lap later the fifth caution came out as Kyle Busch got spun when the field got bunched up behind Matt Kenseth; Busch and Kasey Kahne both suffered damage as did Ryan Newman. The green came out on lap 193 and Logano again went to the lead. The green didn’t last long as Keselowski got into Kenseth and spun into the wall exiting turn 2 bringing out caution six. He suffered only minimal damage and was able to continue.
The green again came out on lap 198 and Logano again went to the front. Another caution, number seven, flew three laps later as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun exiting turn 4 after contact from Earnhardt Jr. The leaders stayed out, but Keselowski, Kahne and a few others pitted. The restart came on lap 206; Logano led, Harvick was second, Vickers third. A debris caution, the races eighth, came out on lap 212.
Vickers stayed out as the rest of the leaders came in for stops. Logano took two tires and won the race off pit road; Keselowski took just fuel and came out second; Gordon, Kenseth, and Harvick took only two tires and rounded out the top five off pit road.
Vickers and Casey Mears, who also stayed out, led to the green on lap 215; a lap later Keselowski was second, and Mears had fallen to sixth. Caution number nine came out on lap 221 when Kurt Busch lost a tire and hit the wall entering turn 3. Among those who pitted were Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Newman and Kahne. The green came on lap 225 and Vickers led with Keselowski close behind. A lap later Keselowski retook the lead he had lost in the first half of the race. Kyle Larson had also fought his way forward and was in third and looking for second.
Another debris caution, number 10, came out on lap 245. Vickers, Logano and Gordon were the only ones among the leaders to pit.
“I thought we gave it away at that point,” Logano said. “But four tires were good and we had some good restarts and were able to get ourselves back up there. We worked hard. “
The restart came on lap 250 with Keselowski leading, Larson second, Kenseth third, Harvick fourth and Marcos Ambrose fifth. Logano with four fresh tires was up to seventh by lap 255. The 11th caution flew on lap 257 when Corey Lajoie spun in turn 2. When pit road opened, Gordon came in from 17th for tires and fuel.
The restart came on lap 260; Keselowski safely went to the lead as those outside the top 10 battled three wide for spots. On lap 261, Logano got by Harvick for second; Stenhouse got into the wall after losing a tire on lap 263 bringing out caution number 12. Keselowski dueled his teammate Logano when the green came back out on lap 268. Logano slid up into Keselowski in turn 2 opening the door for Harvick and he took the lead; as that happened caution 13 came out on lap 269 as Paul Menard and Kenseth got together and spun; Kenseth went into the wall, Menard was able to avoid contact and continue. Kenseth was the third Joe Gibbs Racing driver forced to the garage. The restart came with 27 laps to go; Harvick went to the lead, but Keselowski made contact with Harvick; the two slowed and Logano leapt by for the lead. With four fresher tires than his two pursuers, Logano was soon stretching his lead out.
Jeff Gordon who had been fighting his way back through the field and was fifth, lost a right front tire with 9 laps to go and hit the wall entering turn 1 bringing out caution number 14. He was able to pit and stay on the lead lap. The restart came with five laps to go. Harvick spun his tires and jammed up the field behind him as Logano charged to the lead; the 15th caution came out before the lap was over as Tony Stewart was spun exiting turn 4 setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish.
Logano was able to rocket to the lead, as Larson took second from Harvick. Logano was able to pull away as Larson and Harvick contested second. Harvick tried one last move entering turn 3 on Larson, but as Logano took the checkered Larson was able to hold off Harvick for second.
“It was just a good day for us,” Harvick said. “We had a fast car. Track position is tough and it wound up being really hard racing there and Brad (Keselowski) moved me out of the way and I got up out of the groove. And then at the end there, NASCAR must not be able to see the lines on the restart there and the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was way early all day. But all in all, we did what we had to do and I just enjoyed racing that hard.”
Behind the top three of Logano, Larson and Harvick, McMurray was fourth and Johnson fifth.
“It was a wild day, especially with all of those restarts,” Johnson said. “Man I don’t know what it looked like from the grandstands today, but I can tell you that inside the car, I was hanging on trying not to spin out. We certainly had a lot of cautions, and all those restarts.”
Aric Almirola made a statement for his Chase finishing sixth, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Earnhardt Jr. were seventh, eighth and ninth. Vickers came home tenth.
“We cut it down to a realistic possibility going to Dover,” Almirola said. “I think were nine or 10 points out of 12th, so that’s manageable. If we went to Dover 28 points out, we might as well go ahead and just throw in the towel, but that’s exactly what we needed. I said all week the best thing we can do if we can’t win, we need to go and try to run top five. We ran sixth and we’ve got to try and put pressure on those other guys. “
Other Chaser’s finishes: AJ Allmendinger was 13th, while Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman were 16th, 17th and 18th. The full race results can be found here.
Keselowski leads the Chase standings over second place Logano. Harvick, Johnson and Kyle Busch round out the top five. Gordon fell five spots to seventh, Hamlin fell seven spots to 13th one spot shy of the cutoff as the series heads to Dover International Speedway for next Sunday’s AAA 400. The full updated point standings can be found here.