Joey Logano has put himself into the fight for a Wild Card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, winning the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway from the pole position.
The victory, Logano’s first of the season, has moved him to 13th in the standings and more importantly, just seven points behind Martin Truex Jr. in 12th for the second Wild Card transfer spot.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Logano said on ESPN in Victory Lane. “We needed this for our Chase hopes. We’re not out of it yet. We’ve got another great racetrack [Bristol Motor Speedway] after this coming up for us.
Logano inherited the lead with three laps to go after Mark Martin ran out of gas in an ultimately futile attempt to stretch his final fuel load. Both Martin and Brad Keselowski were on the same strategy, but after a caution came out on Lap 172 for Kyle Busch’s second spin of the day, Keselowski went to the pits for a splash while Martin stayed out.
Knowing he needed a yellow to have any chance, Martin raced out the final run to the checkered flag until his No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota went bone dry. With him out of the picture, it was left to Logano and Harvick to settle the matter.
“I knew [Martin] was two laps short, but I really wanted to get by him just in case,” Logano said. “…I had the 29 [Harvick] behind me and he was about the same speed as me. But just getting that clean air meant so much.”
Martin still praised his MWR compatriots for trying to make their strategy work.
“We knew we needed another caution to make it, but we had the speed to pull it off,” said Martin. “That felt like the old days. Kudos to [crew chief] Rodney Childers and everybody that works on that [car].
“They went for it, rolled the dice, and it’s not crazy to expect cautions at the end of one of these NASCAR races.”
Finishing behind Logano and Harvick in third was Kurt Busch, who was able to break into the Top 10 of the standings thanks to that result.
“I was all fired up when we were running 14th [in the race] – Truex was ahead us, Keselowski was ahead of us, [Greg] Biffle was ahead of us, [Kasey] Kahne was ahead of us – you can’t run 14th and gain on guys,” said Busch. “And I had a restart where the seas parted when I went to the high side, so I got a lot of positions on that restart. We just need to keep plugging away.”
Paul Menard secured his first Top-5 finish of 2013 with a fourth place finish ahead of Clint Bowyer, who overcame a first-lap spin to come home fifth.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.