Joey Logano ran out of fuel while leading with less than three laps to go last week at Pocono. On Sunday at Watkins Glen, he went to victory lane because of another driver's fuel misfortune.
Logano passed Kevin Harvick entering the final corner of the race to win his first road course race in the Sprint Cup Series. Harvick had run out of gas entering turns 6 and 7 at Watkins Glen and didn't have a big enough gap to hold off Logano, who had pitted seven laps later than Harvick did.
Logano last pitted on lap 58 during a caution flag that flew when Tony Stewart's car broke and Jimmie Johnson went spinning. While Logano didn't restart the race in first or even in the top five, he was the first car off pit road and the first driver confident enough to make the it to the end of the race without running out of gas.
"I felt like we got ourselves to be the first car on fuel to make it," Logano's crew chief Todd Gordon said. "And had to push those guys hard enough to make them use up their fuel and not save fuel. Put ourselves in the right spot and executed.
Harvick, who took the lead shortly after the race's final restart, had pitted seven laps sooner. The drivers between he and Logano had also pitted around the time Harvick did. Those that stayed out when Logano pitted were hoping that a caution flag would fly in the race's final laps. Over the last seven races at Watkins Glen, a yellow had been displayed within the final 20 laps.
It didn't happen on Sunday as the race went green to the end, similar to Pocono. Drivers like Logano last week had tried to stretch their fuel past a normal green flag fuel window because they expected a caution to come. But while seven cautions happened in the race's first 72 laps, the final 63 laps went green.
Logano said he pushed from the beginning of the last green flag run, hoping to force others ahead of him to run out of gas. He overdrove turn 1 on the final lap and lost a ton of time to Harvick. But when Harvick ran out of fuel, it ultimately didn't matter.
"I was just trying to pick them off one at a time," Logano said. "I was really, really good through the bus stop so I was trying to use that to my advantage to pass cars and were able to kind of pick our way through it and then Harvick, once I got to him he picked it up. You could tell he was saving fuel and once I got close to him he started going faster. I lost a little bit but that was just the coolest win. To win at this place is ... this is a dream come true win here.
Harvick tried to bump Logano as the cars went through the final corner, but the effort came up short. And may not have been truly effective anyway. Harvick didn't have a lot of momentum off the corner and ended up finishing third as Kyle Busch got him at the finish line. Busch, who also pitted when Logano did, played the end of the race conservatively, figuring that a caution would come out for a driver running out of fuel.
The win is Logano's second win of the year – he won the season-opening Daytona 500 – and he's guaranteed a berth in the Chase. He made the final four last year but miscue on a pit stop at Homestead ruined his title chances.
- - - - - - -