Logano Holds Off Harvick, Repeats As IRWIN Tools Night Race Winner
Joey Logano held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick on Saturday to repeat as the winner of the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The victory was Logano's third this season and the 11th of his Sprint Cup Series career.
"It was a very exciting last 20, 30 laps, for sure, and neat to be able to get a checkered flag again here at Bristol," Logano said.
The No. 22 Team Penske Ford crossed the finish line 0.220 of a second ahead of Harvick, who overcame a pair of pit road penalties to finish second for the 10th time this season. Polesitter Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.
"He was just one step ahead of me in traffic," said Harvick, who leads Logano by 43 points in the standings. "I couldn't get my car to rotate across the center of the corner like I needed to, and every time I tried to force it, it would snap the back out. He was able to go in really high and before the center of the corner drive down the corner. I was just having to wait just a split second to be able to put the throttle back down."
Fans saw Harvick make up ground on Logano entering corners and Logano pull away exiting them. That accordion-like action played out repeatedly over the final 50 laps as they raced each other and negotiated lapped traffic.
"It's so interesting how we ran such different lines and be the same speed on the racetrack," Logano said. "That's what makes Bristol so much fun. You can drive around this place four or five different ways and have a lot of speed no matter how you drive it. It's what fits your style and what fits the setup of your car. We both found what works for us."
Logano passed teammate Brad Keselowski on the final restart and led the last 64 laps around the high-banked, half-mile. Overall, the 25-year-old led 176 laps in a race that early had the look of another dominating night Joe Gibbs Racing.
JGR drivers Kyle Busch and Hamlin led 224 of the first 250 laps. Teammate Carl Edwards led another 74 later in the race but gave up the lead on Lap 353 of 500 when he had to make an unscheduled pit stop to change a flat tire.
Edwards finished seventh while Busch, who won Friday's XFINITY Series race and started second alongside Hamlin on Saturday, finished eighth after incurring a pit road speeding penalty on his final stop. He led the most laps (192).
An engine problem ended JGR teammate Matt Kenseth's chances for a win and a Bristol sweep this season. The four-time Bristol winner was running inside the top 10 when his No. 20 JGR Toyota slowed along the frontstretch on Lap 111. Kenseth drove the car onto pit road with smoke trailing from it before taking it to the garage.
He finished 42nd in his second DNF this season. His other DNF came in May at Dover International Speedway when he finished 39th because of a broken track bar mount.
"It had that hop and that noise that it makes when you know you dropped a valve," Kenseth said. "Unfortunate, but man these guys at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) have been doing such an awesome job. We've had so much power and everything has been really reliable here the last year and a half.
"Things like this happen every once in a while. It's a short night. Felt like we were really competitive. We were one or two adjustments away from where we needed to be."
Asked after the race if he thought JGR would come away with a victory, Hamlin noted how the track changes in practice and from day to night.
"Did I expect it? No," he said. "But I thought it was probable."
Jeff Gordon climbed as high as second in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet that carried a throwback rainbow paint scheme in his final Bristol race as a full-time driver but he finished 20th.
Logano's three victories have come at Daytona International Speedway, Watkins Glen International and now Bristol. The past two have come in August.
"I feel like we're right where we need to be, just like we were last year at this point," Logano said. "I can't wait for the Chase to start."
Flawless was the word his crew chief Todd Gordon used to describe his driver's performance Saturday.
"There are only a handful of guys that want to have the ball in their hands with three seconds left on the shot clock, and Joey is that guy," Gordon said. "When it comes down to the time to make it happen he elevates and doesn't make mistakes. I think Kevin challenged us pretty formidably and Joey never folded and never made a mistake and did what he had to do and executed. It's a Joey Logano performance. I don't know that I'd call it his best performance. He's had a bunch of really good ones."