Joey Logano qualified the No. 18 GameStop Toyota on the pole for Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Phoenix International Raceway. The pole was Logano’s sixth of the season and the 22nd of his career. Logano’s six poles in 2012 leads all drivers in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and guaranteed him the season-long Pole Award. His 22-career poles ties him for eighth on the all-time pole winners list.
At the start of the race, Logano pulled out to a huge lead. The 22-year-old would lead the field for the first 71 laps and through the first two rounds of pit stops, where the No. 18 GameStop/Epic Mickey 2 team would get Logano out first after two two-tire stops.
Logano was complaining about a car that was loose in and tight in the center. However, the adjustments made by crew chief Adam Stevens helped the No. 18 Toyota get better and better.
Logano lost the lead for the first time on lap 72 when the No. 6 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stayed out during a round of stops. After getting in and out of the pits on his third stop first, Logano retook the lead just after the green flew and led the next 47 laps.
The No. 18 team had a slower stop on lap 122 which allowed the No. 22 of Brad Keselowski to take the lead. It took several laps for Logano’s car to come around and the youngster began to reel in Keselowski over the next 30 laps. In fact, Logano was passing Keselowski for the lead when the caution came out on lap 149. NASCAR ruled that Keselowski had retained the top spot despite visual evidence that Logano had the top spot.
On the ensuing restart, Logano took the lead once again and held on to the top spot until the end of the race. Over the race’s final 10 laps, two separate accidents saw Logano have to hold onto the lead and hold off his new Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brian Vickers for the victory. Vickers briefly passed Logano for the top spot on lap 198, but Logano took it back on lap 199 before the final caution of the afternoon.
Logano held onto the lead over a green-white-checkered finish, beating Vickers by 0.668-seconds, notching his ninth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season. The win guaranteed Logano the season-long wins award for the Nationwide Series. Logano’s ninth win has come in just 21 starts this season.
Logano’s ninth win of the season was also the 18th-victory of his Nationwide Series career, coming in 109 starts.
Logano led the race four different occasions for a total of 168 laps. With the most-laps led, Logano won the 3M Lap Leader Award for the seventh time this season and has led more laps than any other drivers in series.
The win was crew chief Adam Stevens’ 11th-career Nationwide Series victory since becoming a crew chief at the start of the 2011 season. Ten of Steven’s 11 wins have come with Logano behind the wheel (the other being Denny Hamlin).
With the win, Logano was able to extend the team’s lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Standings. The No. 18 JGR team now holds a 33-point lead over the No. 6 of Roush-Fenway Racing heading into the season finale next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Logano will be in the No. 18 next weekend as well in Miami.
Logano’s Post-Race Thoughts: “Today was just a huge day for everyone on this No. 18 GameStop team. We accomplished a lot today, but these guys out here didn’t hand it to me, that’s for sure. We really had to work for this one, especially racing the No. 20 there at the end of the race. Brian (Vickers) was really good on the restart and the one time he was able to catch me and get by me. Thankfully, he slid up a bit coming out of four and I was able to crossover and get back by him before the caution came out. Then we were under red there and all you are doing the whole time is sitting there just thinking over and over and over what you need to do on that last restart and what you can do to not screw up. We had a great restart on the green-white-checker and were able to pull away and grab the win.
“To finally win at Phoenix is awesome. I feel like I’ve been close here over the years so to finally win a race here was big. Plus, winning from the pole was huge. We were able to wrap up the awards for most wins and most poles in the season and took over the lead of the most laps led this year. Also, we were able to extend the points lead in the Owner’s Championship. That is huge and that is really important for JGR and this No. 18 team. That is a goal of our and getting a chance to extend the points lead gives us a little bit of cushion heading into next week. We still need to go out there and do our thing though next week. We need to be on our game. And I’ve only got one more race left with these guys and with GameStop, who has been with me from the very beginning here, so to get them again win and celebrate with them in Victory Lane was pretty special. Now, we have one more week and another chance to get to ten wins and get that Owner’s Championship.”