The Finish: Joey Logano used a great late-race call from Crew Chief Adam Stevens to drive the No. 20 GameStop Toyota from fifth to third on a green-white checkered finish in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event, the Zippo 200, at Watkins Glen International. With the third-place finish, Logano continued his impressive recent string of road course finishes in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.
The Race Recap: Following a recent string of good runs in road course events, Logano qualified his No. 20 GameStop Toyota eighth for Saturday afternoon’s event at the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course. Logano and Stevens came up with a pre-race pit strategy and were able to stick with it most of the afternoon. Logano rode around the first part of the event in eighth before coming in for his first stop on lap 22, where the team made adjustments for a tight condition. Logano continued to pick up spot after spot as the race went on, getting up to fifth by lap 40. Just after lap 40, Logano started to complain that the No. 20 GameStop Toyota was running hot. With one eye on the water gauge, Logano continued to run near the front, getting up to fourth by lap 76 following another round of pit stops. However, a late-race caution set up a decision for the No. 20 team. Stevens elected to bring Logano in for four fresh tires and to top the GameStop Toyota off the fuel. Quick pit work by the No. 20 team got Logano out in fifth for the final green-white-checkered run. Over those final two laps, Logano was able to pick up two spots to finish third, including getting by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch on the final turn coming to the checkers.
Joey’s Quotes: “We had a great run today with the GameStop Toyota. What a great finish considering where we started the day. It was a great call from Adam to come in and get those tires and it worked out just like we had planned. We were going to be close on fuel, so we decided to come in, get some fuel and get tires. That way, if there were a few green-white-checkers at the end of the race, we would be ready for it. It ended up we only lost one spot in the pits because a lot of other guys came in as well and we were actually the first car off pit road. So when they threw the green, we were just all out trying to get the spots we could. Everyone got into turn one kind of crazy and that helped too. We got into fourth and were able to get by Kyle for third there coming to the line. I just wish we could have had more laps at the end. I was kind of hoping we would have a couple of green-white-checker finishes, because we had those fresh tires. But I’ll take third-place, especially on a road course.
“The car was good all day, but wasn’t as good in the beginning as it needed to be and that is probably my fault. I don’t think I put as much emphasis on getting the car turning in practice as I should have. So we spent the first part of the race trying to get it turning better and Adam and the guys made all the right adjustments. By the end of the race, we had a good car. I’m just happy to get out of here with a car in one piece and a top-five finish. We stayed on the track all day and it was a good race.
“I need to thank Max Papis for helping me out today. He’s been serving as a coach on the road course races for me and I’ve been really improving. He was on the radio in the bus stop today and was giving me a lot of pointers. Plus, he brings a lot of energy to the radio. It’s hard to listen to the guy and not get pumped up when you are out there. He came over after the race and said I drove my butt off. When a guy like that tells you that you are driving your but off, you know you did something. I’m definitely getting better at these road course events. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I feel like I’m getting there. I kind of started as a blank slate with Max and I think he’s got me to a place I need to be. If I can just keep honing my road racing skills, I think I’ll be able to win one of these events one day.”
What’s Next: The No. 20 GameStop Toyota and Logano will be back in action in just two weeks at Bristol Motor Speedway.