BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Joey Logano was only a few laps away from victory when suddenly, holding off Paul Menard wasn’t his main problem.
“I could tell something was wrong on the back straightaway,” Logano said.
Logano’s flat tire with about five laps remaining allowed Menard to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. It was Menard’s second victory on that circuit and first since 2006, and Logano was left trying to come to terms with a race that was going well until the final moments.
“I hate to give them away like that,” Logano said. “You look at the silver lining I guess, which is we had a fast race car and should have won the race. You win some this way and lose some this way.”
Logano was leading when he was derailed by the tire problem. Menard took advantage of his good fortune, holding off Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.468 seconds. It was Menard’s first Nationwide start of the season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, followed by pole-winner Kyle Busch and Brian Scott. Regan Smith finished seventh and remained atop the points list.
Menard, one of several Sprint Cup drivers in contention in the event, won the 250-mile, 125-lap race in his No. 33 Chevrolet. He figures he might have had a shot to win even without Logano’s mishap.
“I would have liked to have lined up nose to tail with Joey,” he said. “It would have been a hell of a race.”
Logano wasn’t disputing that, but the point became moot when he ran over something in his No. 22 Ford and dropped all the way back to 16th place because of the cut tire.
“The 33 was quick and had a fast race car also. We were going to have a race because he was catching me a little bit,” Logano said. “Sometimes you are the bug, sometimes you are the windshield. It is never over until it is over. You think you are in good shape and you are worried about a caution more than anything else and then the next thing you know you hear it starting to come apart.”
Busch won his third Nationwide pole of the year but was unable to repeat his victory two weeks ago at Dover. Scott was the highest finisher among this year’s Nationwide regulars, holding his own among several Cup drivers.
“I’ve been fortunate to run a couple Cup Series races, and I felt like it was a huge benefit to me and my team in the Nationwide Series,” said Scott, who along with Menard was part of a big day for Richard Childress Racing. “The added track time, just driving something with more horsepower. You actually figure out … the grip threshold, and you realize just how high it is. Then you can get in your Nationwide car and you know that you’re nowhere near it or you’re at it, and how to approach that.”
Hornish nearly won the Nationwide Series in 2013, but his sponsorship money dried up and he parted ways with owner Roger Penske. He’s made only three Nationwide starts this year, but the irregular schedule doesn’t seem to be affecting his performance. He’s finished in the top five in all three races, including a victory at Iowa in May.
He was in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday.
“It’s not really a knocking-off-the-rust thing, because I’m at the shop every week,” Hornish said. “I feel like I’m keeping from being rusty by the amount of things that I’m doing as far as that. Gotten to do a little bit of testing, and they’ve given me good cars. Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing has been super nice to me so far — glad that we could come out and have another good day for them.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press