On a Gamble and Fumes Logano wins at Nashville

LEBANON, TENNESSEE - JUNE 30: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 30, 2024 in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

It was perhaps a macrocosm of Joey Logano’s season to date. Sunday, he made a desperate gamble and running on fumes held off Tyler Reddick on a quintuple NASCAR overtime finish, a NASCAR record, to win at Nashville Superspeedway.

Logano was the lone survivor among a group who tried to stretch fuel past the race’s 300 lap scheduled distance. While others bowed out or ran out of fuel, Logano somehow found enough in his tank to make it an extra 31 laps for his first win of 2024. Logano said his fuel light came on coming out of Turn 3 on the final lap and his Ford stumbled across the line.

“That was definitely all of it,” a jubilant Logano said. “It’s been a stressful few weeks trying to get into the playoffs, and being able to win here is huge for our season. Felt great to get that. Boy, it feels good.”

Logano last pitted for fuel on lap 221 along with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson during the eighth caution of what turned out to be a track record 15. With a projected fuel window of 80 laps that meant they were among a group who would have just enough fuel to go the distance, had that distance been the scheduled 300 laps.

There would be several other drivers, led by Ryan Blaney, who would stay out to gain track position. Blaney would lead much of the penultimate part of the race but gave up and pitted in lap 248. That handed the lead to Ross Chastain who had pitted with Logano and Blaney. In the closing laps Hamlin was able to reel in Chastain and grab the top spot with 6 laps to go.

Had the race ended at lap 300, Hamlin might have scored his fourth win of 2024. But with less than 2 laps to go, Austin Cindric made contact with Noah Gragson and spun on the backstretch setting up an overtime finish.

On the first attempt at overtime, the field was entering turn 1 with Larson pushing Hamlin. Larson’s splitter hit the apron and his Chevrolet was thrown up into Ross Chastain. Chastain was sent up and into the outside wall. The ensuing melee swept up Ty Gibbs, John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Dillon.

More caution laps meant more fuel being burned.

On the second overtime attempt, Hamlin lined up on the bottom, while Larson had the front row on the outside. A huge pile of cars crashed on the backstretch before the leaders reached the white flag bringing out another caution and setting up a third overtime.

Larson was the first to run out of fuel slowing on the restart and taking out Kyle Busch. During that caution, Hamlin’s crew chief made the decision to bring his driver in awarding the lead to Logano.

With nothing left to lose, Logano held on through the race’s final caution for a Josh Berry crash coming out of Turn 3, then held off Reddick for the win on the final overtime.

The race featured a 1:21 minute red flag on lap 140 for a thunderstorm that swept over the track. It passed quickly however, and the sun came out drying the track. It wasn’t long before drivers were called back to their cars and the race resumed under sunny skies.

For much of the first part of the race it appeared it would be Christopher Bell’s day once again. He swept both Stages and led a race high 131 laps.

But his dominant day came to an end thanks to a 4 tire stop during a caution period that started on lap 219 when Chase Elliott went for a solo spin coming out of Turn 4.

Bell took 4 tires on the stop, but thanks to a combination of cars staying out, others taking only two tires, or fuel only, found himself in 15th. Four laps after the restart, on lap 229, Bell got loose coming into Turn 1 and slid hard into the outside wall of Turn 2. He was forced to park his Toyota and the three-time winner this season was scored with his fourth DNF of 2024.

That opened the door for others including Hamlin, Chastain, and ultimately Logano.

Zane Smith, in his first full season with Spire Motorsports, was able to survive all the carnage and nip Reddick at the line for a career best second place finish.

“My winning side of me is pissed with the second place,” Smith said. “Especially after hearing the 22 was going to run out for the past 10 laps, I don’t know how many restarts.”

Reddick’s defeat at the end was palpable.

“It’s really disappointing,” he said. ” I’m trying my best, but it’s tough. I’m trying to keep it cool at the moment. I’m really upset about how that ended.”

Ryan Preece was fourth and Chris Buescher fifth.

Despite his late pit stop for fuel, Blaney rallied back to finish 6th; Bubba Wallace seventh. Larson also rebounded, finishing 8th. Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson rounded out the top 10.

For Logano whose season has seen its share of missed opportunities, struggles, and just plain bad luck the win finally secures him a spot in their year’s Playoffs.

“It’s been a hard season and being on that cut line, I tell you it sucks,” he said.  “It’s just not fun.  It’s hard and you just want a little bit of relief of the pressure and with seven weeks to go until the playoffs it gives us a chance to breathe for a second and start just kind of working on our car a little bit differently and just sleep better, to be honest with you.”

Hamlin finished 12th.

NASCAR heads to Chicago for its second Chicago Street Race. Shane Van Gisbergen is the defending winner.


Photos: NASCAR at Nashville Superspeedway Sunday June 30, 2024


Greg Engle