Joey Logano surged past Matt Kenseth with 44 laps to go and won for the first time in his career at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, foiling Kenseth’s gambling attempt to secure a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs.
Logano became the fifth driver this season to win three times, joining the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and teammate Brad Keselowski, who finished second.
“It’s awesome,” Logano said in Victory Lane. “I’ve never won more than one race in a season, and now I’ve won three.”
Kenseth elected to stay on the track when most of the field pitted after a caution flag with 67 laps to go, picking track position and fresh air over new tires. It seemed like a strategy that could work, especially if he could stay in the high racing groove that gave drivers decidedly more speed off the corners.
But the Penske Racing teammates quickly proved it faulty.
“I just knew that clean air was going to be worth more than new tires,” Kenseth said of his decision after finishing third. He said he also felt his car wasn’t as strong as he liked on fresh tires. “They cleared everybody way too fast.”
He still remains in great position to make the playoffs, standing fifth in the points race and first among non-winners.
Jimmie Johnson, slowed early by two pit road speeding penalties, rallied to finish fourth, his best result since mid-June at Michigan, and Kurt Busch was fifth.
Gordon remained the points leader despite a 16th-place run. He’s 27 clear of Earnhardt and 42 ahead of Keselowski.
With 100 laps to go, it looked like the series might get a 13th winner of the year.
Jamie McMurray, who led a race-best 148 laps, was leading, followed by Kenseth, and Ryan Newman was ninth. As the final laps clicked off, though, McMurray faded to eighth and Newman, once seventh, dropped to 13th.
Will Power won the IndyCar pole at Sonoma Raceway in California, putting the overall points leader in prime position for his championship chase.
Power turned a lap in 1 minute, 17.4126 seconds on the winding course at the base of wine country. He’ll start in front today when he attempts to win the race for the fourth time in five years.
The Australian broke his own track record in the first qualifying heat, finishing in 1:17.2393.
Josef Newgarden finished second, with Scott Dixon third and James Hinchcliffe fourth. Helio Castroneves, who trails teammate Power by 39 points in the overall race, finished sixth.
No driver starting outside the top five has won at Sonoma since IndyCar arrived at the track in 2005.