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Logano wins at Darlington after late-race chaos

May 12, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Joey Logano's attempt to help Elliott Sadler backfired when Sadler spun out on a late restart and finished 24th. (Autostock)

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- For Joey Logano, Friday night's victory in the VFW Sport Clips 200 Nationwide Series event at Darlington Raceway was tinged with regret.

Yes, Logano drove away from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin after a green-white-checkered restart to win his second consecutive race in the series and third of the season.

VFW Sport Clips 200

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2.Denny Hamlin Toyota
3.Brad Keselowski Dodge
4.Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge
5.Austin DillonChevrolet

Standings

Pos.+/-DriverBehind
2.--E. Sadler-23
3.--A. Dillon-35
4.--S. Hornish Jr.-59
5.--Cole Whitt-81

But Logano got the opportunity for his 12th career victory only after a well-intentioned bump went awry and wrecked championship contender Elliott Sadler on a restart with five laps left in regulation distance.

"Obviously, this win was a little bittersweet -- you don't want to win 'em that way," said Logano, who called Sadler after the race to apologize and left a voice mail. "Your heart drops. You know he's running for points.

"Your heart drops a little bit, but at the same time, you've got to put it behind you, go out there and do your job and win the race."

Hamlin, who complained of an engine problem during the final two laps, finished .256 seconds behind Logano in the runner-up position. Brad Keselowski ran third, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. and rookie Austin Dillon, as the race went four laps past its scheduled distance of 147 laps.

Danica Patrick finished 12th and Travis Pastrana 17th, both on the lead lap in their Darlington debuts.

Logano was trying to push Sadler and keep him in the lead on a restart on Lap 143, but Sadler's No. 2 moved up the track to the right and turned across the nose of Hamlin's Camry, which was running in the outside lane.

After slamming into the wall near the entry to Turn 1, Sadler's car was too hobbled to continue, leaving him in 24th place at the finish and dropping him to 23 points behind series leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who started on the pole and finished sixth.

"I was trying to help him," Logano said of the contact with Sadler's car. "Two restarts before that I successfully helped him and got him out front. The next restart was the same situation -- he was first; I was third -- and I started to push him.

"He did take two tires, so I think he spun his tires some, and I was trying to shove him ahead. . . . He may have been trying to go up in front of Denny, or he was spinning the tires, and I had him crossed up, but once he turned sideways, I couldn't get off him."

Sadler's crash caused the sixth caution of the race and forced overtime, with the field taking the green flag on Lap 150. Logano powered past his teammate into the lead.

"We lost a cylinder, and that's why we didn't take off," said Hamlin, who led 103 of the 151 laps. "We just can't keep dominating these races and not win 'em."

Hamlin led Kurt Busch by more than five seconds when the right-front tire on Busch's No. 54 Toyota blew on Lap 126, shooting the nose of the car into the outside wall. The resulting caution brought the top cars to pit road, with Sadler grabbing the lead with a two-tire stop under the yellow.

Before the caution, the fourth of the race, Hamlin had dominated. Busch took the lead briefly with a bold three-wide move on a Lap 51 restart, but Hamlin regained the top spot on Lap 53 and began to pull away.

Notes-N-Nuggets

• Joey Logano earned his 12th victory in his 96th series start; it was his third victory in his past five starts.
• Darlington became the eighth track at which Joey Logano has won in Nationwide.
• Joey Logano is the 27th driver to win at Darlington in the 52nd race.
• Joey Logano led three times for four laps, including the final two.
• Those four laps led tied the record for fewest laps led by a winner, set by Jack Ingram (April 1985) and tied by Matt Kenseth (May 2009).
• This was the 71st Nationwide win for Joe Gibbs Racing; the team has won six of the past seven Darlington races.
• With Denny Hamlin's second-place finish, it was the 15th time JGR drivers have accomplished that.
• Denny Hamlin (second) has finished first or second in his past five Nationwide starts at Darlington.
• Denny Hamlin led the most laps with 103 but failed to win for only the second time in the past 10 races after leading the most.
• Brad Keselowski (third) picked up his first top-five finish in his sixth Darlington start.
• Sam Hornish Jr. (fourth) earned his fourth career top-five finish in his 42nd career race, but his second of 2012.
• Austin Dillon (fifth) had his seventh top-10 finish of the season.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (sixth) earned his eighth top-10 finish this season, the most of any driver; he extended his points lead to 23 over Elliott Sadler.
• Danica Patrick (12th) earned the best finish by a woman at Darlington; the previous best was a 13th-place finish by Patty Moise in Sept. 1995.
• Travis Pastrana (17th) finished on the lead lap in his second career start.

His advantage over Busch grew to nearly seven seconds through a cycle of green-flag stops, before Busch's tire blew to bring out the yellow flag. Ultimately, Busch recovered to finish eighth, despite the damage his car suffered when he hit the wall.

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