By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – A week after running out of fuel while leading with three laps left at Pocono, Joey Logano finished off an unprecedented weekend sweep at Watkins Glen International with his first road course victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Pressuring race leader Kevin Harvick over a 30-lap green-flag run to the finish of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, Logano made the winning pass through the final two corners at the 2.45-mile road course as Harvick ran out of fuel in Turn 6.
Picking up his second victory of the season and the 10th of his career, Logano crossed the finish line 5.273 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch, who grabbed second place as Harvick coasted over the stripe to secure third.
Matt Kenseth came home fourth, and Kurt Busch recovered from a pit road penalty (crewmen over the wall too soon) to finish fifth, as Logano became the first driver ever to win both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen International in the same weekend.
“I’m still just trying to catch my breath,” Logano said after climbing from his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. “I was really excited after that one. I was running down Harvick there for a little bit, and once I got close to him, he started to pick up his pace a little bit, which was good, because I needed him to run out of gas.
“I started to catch him a little bit, and I drove into (Turn) 1 too hard (on the final lap) and started to wheel hop. I just about lost it, and at that point you just hope he runs out of gas, which he did in the last corner. It makes up for last week. We lost the race last week the same way, so it makes up for it to get it this week.”
Logano led only one lap — the last one.
With Logano’s victory, every driver who has won a race this season — with the exception of Kyle Busch — has clinched a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, assuming each starts the remaining races of the regular season. Busch cracked the top 30 in the standings for the first time after returning from an 11-race injury absence.
With four victories, Busch must simply finish the 26-race regular season four races hence in the top 30, and that was the primary reason he didn’t make a harder push to catch Logano in the closing laps.
“I think that was some of (crew chief) Adam (Stevens’) worry, too,” said Busch, who like Logano, had pitted for fuel under caution on Lap 58 of 90 and who, like Logano, had run out of gas in the closing laps at Pocono. “We couldn’t afford running out of gas like we did last week and taking home an even worse finish this week, because of how many cars finish on the lead lap typically at a road course.
“We’d be back in the 30s somewhere. I’m sure that was weighing on Adam’s mind on being able to save it and make it to the end and just playing it a little bit more cautious, which is fine. I’m with Adam 100 percent of the way all the time.”
The race dealt potentially devastating blows to several drivers hopeful of qualifying for the Chase on points.
Jeff Gordon had brake problems almost from the outset and finished 41st, dropping two spots to 12th in the standings. Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet was the victim of a hard wreck when the field accordioned behind Sam Hornish on a restart on Lap 49; he fell two positions in the points to 17th, outside the window for making the Chase.
Jamie McMurray’s Chevrolet ran into the back of Logano’s Ford on that same restart, crushing the nose of the car. McMurray came home 40th and dropped one position to ninth in the standings.
If there are no more first-time winners in the next four weeks, and if Kyle Busch remains in the top 30, there will be five Chase spots available on points. Currently, the top five drivers in the standings without a victory are McMurray, Paul Menard, Gordon, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer.
Notes: Polesitter and defending race winner AJ Allmendinger led the first 21 laps, but an alternator problem relegated him to a 24th-place finish… Tony Stewart started third but retired in 43rd place after 56 laps because of a rear gear failure… Harvick led a race-high 29 laps, two more than Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, who pitted with Busch and Logano under caution on Lap 58 and worked his way up to seventh at the finish.