AVONDALE, Ariz. – Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano put on a dominating display at Phoenix International Raceway in Saturday’s Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter 200, the fourth race of 2015 in the NASCAR XFINITY series.
The 24-year-old Connecticut native won the pole position earlier in the day and led 176 of the 200 laps before eventually scoring his second career win at PIR over Matt Kenseth. The victory was the 12th for car owner Roger Penske, who has eight wins with Indy cars and four with NASCAR stock cars at the oldest major paved oval race track west of the Mississippi River.
“I was able to take off faster on restarts and get a nice lead,” Logano said. “His (Kenseth’s) car was looser than mine – that’s why I was able to get the lead. Once I had been running a few laps, I would get tight and he would start catching up to me because his balance was a little bit freer. But I was better than him in lapped traffic so I just kept hoping for lapped traffic – that’s where I was able to make up a little bit of time. We had to deal with some strategy of when to take two (tires) and when to take four, but (crew chief) Greg Owen and all these guys (pit crew members) made the right adjustments for me to win today.”
Logano was in control from the start, charging into the lead from the drop of the green flag as Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones jockeyed for position behind. Kenseth eventually finished second, 0.293 behind as lapped cars enabled the Toyota driver to shave half a second off the leader’s advantage. But, barring mechanical problems or a driving mistake by Logano or lapped traffic, the outcome never seemed to be in doubt.
“I just didn’t catch him,” Kenseth said. “I fired off that last run real slow and he got in front of me and I knew that was going to be bad. I was trying to save a little bit for the end, but once we got going I was tight with all that dirty air and we just couldn’t get there.”
Harvick finished third ahead of Austin Dillon, Jones and Ty Dillon. Finishing seventh was defending XFINITY Series champ Chase Elliott, who fought back from a mid-race spin that dropped him to 20th.
After leading the first 50 laps, Logano temporarily lost the top spot during pit stops, but he charged ahead shortly after the restart on Lap 55. He lost the lead only after pit stops as other drivers tried to gain track position by not pitting during caution periods or by taking just two tires or fuel only.
These tactics gained the challengers only a temporary advantage as Logano invariably used fresh tires and the superior handling of his Ford Mustang to muscle his way to the lead. He led the final 64 laps and his pursuers spent more time trying to keep each other behind than they did closing in on the leader.
With Logano and the Sprint Cup Series regular drivers ineligible for XFINITY Series points, Ty Dillon left Arizona with the series points lead followed by Chris Buescher (who finished 14th), Ryan Reed (13th), Elliott and rookie Darrell Wallace Jr. (15th).