Joey Logano reaffirmed his mastery of the road course at Watkins Glen International, but it took a three-wide restart late in Saturday’s Zippo 200 for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford to get the job done.
After winning his fourth straight NASCAR Xfinity Series pole at the 2.45-mile track, Logano took teammate Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ryan Preece three-wide into Turn 1 after a restart on lap 75 of 82.
Logano’s move forced Keselowski wide and Logano cleared his teammate before the entry to Turn 2.
But Keselowski wasn’t finished. He hounded Logano relentlessly until spinning in Turn 1 with two laps left.
That gave Logano a comfortable margin, and he cruised to the finish line 3.362 seconds ahead of charging AJ Allmendinger, as Keselowski fell to 10th at the end. Allmendinger passed third-place finisher Justin Allgaier in the final corner to secure the runner-up spot.
“That was all I had,” said Logano, who came to the green for the final restart with six-lap fresher tires than Keselowski. “He was definitely faster. I thought the tires would have been enough to be faster than him.
“I had a good restart and got in front of him, and he dogged me. These Xfinity cars draft quite a bit down these straightaways, and it’s hard to pull away. It felt good to race each other really hard, so it’s cool to see Penske cars doing that.”
The victory was Logano’s third in four races at WGI, his second in four starts this season and the 30th of his career, breaking a tie with Matt Kenseth for seventh on the all-time list.
Preece came home fourth, his fifth top-10 and fourth top-five in six 2018 starts. Aric Almirola completed the top five.
Logano won the race’s first stage before a rainstorm forced a change to rain tires. Allmendinger showed his road racing superiority by pulling away to win the second stage before the sun came out and dried the track.
Allmendinger drew a one-lap penalty for sliding too far and pitting outside his stall during a fuel-only green-flag stop on Lap 52, but he fought back to finish second after two late cautions bunched the field.
“Just a dumb mistake on my part,” Allmendinger said. “I was coming in for fuel there, and it was still a little bit damp on pit road… I rolled in and slid a little more than I expected and got the nose over the line, and they’d already started to refuel.
“I just knew that, once we got the yellow, I was going to have to start roughing people up an driving up through there as hard as I could.”
Christopher Bell fell short in his attempt to match Sam Ard’s series record of four straight victories. Bell recovered from a pass-through penalty (for crewmen over the wall too soon on a Lap 16 stop) and finished ninth.
But Bell holds the series lead by 22 points over Cole Custer, who finished sixth on Saturday. Daniel Hemric (16th) is third, 23 points back, and fourth-place Elliott Sadler trials by 26 points.