In a Nutshell: Joe Gibbs Racing scored its 10th win in 16 Nationwide Series races on Saturday night, and this time added a fourth winning driver to its roster. Joey Logano, after taking his second consecutive pole award, scored his first career Nationwide Series win in convincing fashion, leading five times for 76 laps, including the final 54. Logano took the lead for the final time on lap 147 when he passed teammate Kyle Busch. Busch, who started at the rear of the field after missing qualifying due to running the truck race at Michigan, rocketed to the front of the field and led 85 laps before wrecking himself late in the running in a single-car incident.
The win marked the seventh of the season for the No. 20 team and crew chief Dave Rogers. When asked about the talent of his new protege, Rogers said of Logano’s talent “Three starts, two poles, one win. He’s OK.”
Scott Wimmer, Mike Wallace, Brad Keselowski and David Ragan rounded out the top five. Clint Bowyer scored a ninth-place finish and maintained his lead in the Nationwide Series points standings. When interviewed after his accident, Busch announced that he would not attempt the Nationwide Series race at Milwaukee, abandoning his pursuit of the Nationwide Series title.
Who Should Have Won: Logano. Busch certainly had a dominant car with the No. 18 on Saturday night, and in clean air he was difficult to pass for anyone. Logano blasted by Busch and drove away from him and the rest of the field. Everyone who follows the Nationwide Series knew that Logano’s first win was a matter of when, not if, and his performance at Kentucky spoke volumes as to the talent of this 18-year-old. Watch out NASCAR, this kid is for real.
It was very very cool to see an STP car back on the track this weekend. And, considering how many drivers have done nothing but whine and complain about their lives as racers recently, it was also very refreshing to see Marcos Ambrose wheel his STP Ford to an impressive, and season-best, sixth-place finish. Ambrose qualified third and ran with the leaders all night, but most importantly was genuinely excited to be out there in the famous Petty Blue and Red colors. To see Ambrose not only run well, but take pride in being in NASCAR and being able to drive a famous paint scheme was a great counter-example to so many marquee drivers of late. A well-deserved pat on the back goes to the No. 59 team for working as hard as they are to have fun and turn their season around.
Bryan Clauson is living, walking proof of the old adage that consistent seat-time is the key to improved performance. Clauson’s season started with a bang as he finished sixth at Daytona, but his results quickly tapered as he was forced to share time with Dario Franchitti and Kyle Krisiloff. Clauson, however, has gotten more seat time of late thanks to Franchitti’s injury and Krisiloff’s latest failures, and Saturday night his improvement showed vividly. Clauson scored his first career top five after a strong run, also the first top-five finish of the season for Ganassi Racing’s No. 40 team. Clauson, who will be in the No. 40 car at Milwaukee, has come a long way as Ganassi’s primary Nationwide Series driver. Here’s hoping he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle when Franchitti returns to run Cup companion races.
Jason Keller had his pit crew and 70,000 fans at Kentucky on their feet when on lap 18 he passed Logano under green for the lead. For Keller, who led 22 laps and finished 10th on Saturday, the race marked just how far his CJM Racing team has come since last year. Keller, who joined the No. 11 team when it was an unsponsored, part-time effort, has since led the team into the top 15 in the series standings, with a full-time sponsor and, as he showed on Saturday, competitive racecars. Seeing the No. 11 pit crew high-fiving on pit road when Keller took the lead was one of the coolest moments of the race.
Better Luck Next Time
Chase Miller did exactly what a development driver shouldn’t do on Saturday afternoon, he wrecked his primary car. But, even worse, Miller wrecked his backup car only 11 laps into the race. Miller’s struggles at Kentucky Speedway were surprising, given that the Gillett Evernham Motorsports team is well-known for their intermediate track prowess. Miller, a former ARCA Re/Max Series standout, has had strong runs in the No. 9 throughout the season and should be in the car for Milwaukee. He will be eager to show that his performance at Kentucky was the exception rather than the norm.
Kenny Wallace’s night ended before it began on Saturday, as his No. 28 car failed to complete even one lap before heading behind the wall because of mechanical issues. Wallace, driving for an extremely underfunded team in Jay Robinson Racing, managed to get on track later in the race, finishing 56 laps down in the 29th position. The signing of Wallace has resulted in much-improved performance from the No. 28 car, but for this improvement to continue Wallace has got to be able to start races knowing the car will fire.
Underdog Performer of the Race
While he certainly wasn’t driving for an underdog race team, Jeremy Clements deserves a shout-out for a job well done in his first Nationwide Series effort of the season. Clements, who has performed exceptionally well in a limited ARCA Re/Max Series campaign over the last few seasons, has been unable to find a NASCAR ride because of a lack of sponsorship. This weekend, however, Joe Gibbs Racing signed Clements to practice and qualify Busch’s No. 18 Toyota, and Clements performed admirably. After posting the second-fastest lap in practice, Clements qualified the No. 18 in the seventh position, locking the part-time team into the race. Busch’s car was a rocket ship in race trim, proof positive Clements did his job in setting the car up. Hey JGR, now that Busch isn’t going for the Nationwide title, how about giving Clements a well-deserved race or two?
“This team is amazing. I can’t thank GameStop and Toyota enough. It’s just amazing. We unloaded not where we wanted to, but no one gave up. This team worked really hard and got the win out of this thing. It’s pretty awesome to get my first win.” – Joey Logano on his first of what will be many Nationwide Series wins
“That’s it. I’m done.” – Kyle Busch, after a self-induced crash, announces that he will skip next weekend’s Nationwide Series race at Milwaukee
“It was a rough night. We battled motor stuff all day long. And having to make up for that so much through the corner that you can’t and then your car gets way off and the chassis gets way off. We’re trying to correct something we can’t fix because we don’t build them.” – Bobby Hamilton Jr. on his team’s struggles at Kentucky
Up Next: The Nationwide Series next heads to Milwaukee for the Camping World RV Rental 250 this Saturday night. Coverage from the Milwaukee Mile begins at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and 8:30 p.m. on MRN.