Logano withstands five OT restarts to win Ally 400

Logano withstands five OT restarts to win Ally 400

Joey Logano holds up the winner’s guitar after winning the Music City Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway Sunday. BRITTNEY WILBUER

LEBANON – It took a record five overtime restarts to complete Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway, but two-time series champion Joey Logano ultimately emerged as the race winner, securing his first victory of the season and a spot in the 2024 playoffs in dramatic fashion.

With the race leaders falling out of contention with each restart late in the race – 31 extra laps and 15 total cautions on the day – Logano and his Team Penske crew were betting his No. 22 Ford Mustang had enough fuel for a final push to the checkered flag. Ultimately, Logano’s No. 22 completed 110 laps on that last tank of fuel.

The reward was a trip to Victory Lane on Sunday — Ford’s first at the 1.33-mile track in Nashville — and a coveted ticket to the playoffs for Logano and his team.

Logano finished 0.068 of a second ahead of Spire Motorsports rookie Zane Smith – a career-best performance in the Cup Series for the former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion. 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick was third, followed by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Preece and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher.

Logano, 34, said he wasn’t sure how much fuel was left and that he would definitely make it to the finish.

“I know at (Turn) 3 my fuel light came on and he stumbled across the finish line. That was absolutely it,” Logano told NBC Sports after the race. “But I’m so proud of this Shell-Pennzoil Mustang team. It’s been a stressful few weeks trying to make the playoffs and being able to win here is huge for our season. It felt great to achieve that. Man, that feels good.

“I’m out of breath. We won at (Turn) 4, and then the warning came and I thought, oh my God, but you can’t pit. You just have to go for it. Man, it wasn’t much of a difference. But we have to give Roush Yates a lot of credit, not only building horsepower, but also building fuel economy. That’s what won today.”

Logano still barely had enough fuel to pull off a brief victory burnout in front of a sold-out Nashville crowd that stayed until the epic conclusion despite a one-hour, 21-minute red flag due to rain and lightning, just 136 laps into the 331-lap race. His crew chief, Paul Wolfe, confirmed that Logano’s Mustang eventually ran out of gas.

“We’re just at the point. … We’ve come this far, let’s just keep it going,” Wolfe said of the team that stayed out instead of pitting for fuel. “Thankfully it was enough, but he did get out on the last lap.”

Joey Logano celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400. SEAN GARDNER

Even before all the extra laps, the scheduled end of the race was marked by a terrific duel between pole winner Denny Hamlin, who was racing for what would have been a series-best fourth win, and 2023 Nashville winner Ross Chastain, who was racing for his first win of the season. For 30 laps, they raced at the front of the field, with Hamlin chipping away at Chastain’s lead before eventually overtaking him with seven laps remaining in regulation of the originally scheduled 300-lap race.

But just as Hamlin and Chastain appeared to be wrapping up the trophy, Logano’s teammate Austin Cindric spun with four laps to go, forcing the first overtime.

Hamlin and Chastain started side by side in the first overtime, but Chastain was hit from behind by Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson, whose Chevrolet splitter hit the apron and inadvertently pushed him into Chastain’s car. The accident eliminated Chastain with a 33rd-place finish, and Hamlin had to hold off the field in two subsequent overtimes before having to pit himself for fuel – a decision that was difficult for the team to make, but ultimately had to make.

That left Logano and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe on the front row for the fourth overtime restart. Smith had moved up to second around Briscoe when the final caution came out for SHR’s Josh Berry.

Only one (Reddick) of the top 11 cars entering the fifth overtime had won a race this season, but a highly motivated Logano built a commanding lead over the field at the drop of the flag and held off the challengers, while more incidents unfolded as the checkered flag flew.

“The winning side of me is pissed off about second place, especially after I heard the 22 (Logano) was going to be out for the last 10 laps, I don’t know how many restarts,” Smith said of his second place finish. “But no, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I felt like I picked the right lane, and it’s crazy how differently these cars drive with cleaner air. Just proud of our strategy there.”

Logano’s Team Penske teammate and reigning champion Blaney finished sixth, followed by 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, Larson, Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric and SHR’s Noah Gragson.

There were nine race leaders and twenty lead changes that day.

For much of the first day, last week’s winner Christopher Bell looked as though he was in position to capture the first back-to-back victories of his career. But pit strategy left Bell’s No. 20 JGR Toyota the furthest back in the field. He spun out alone in Turn 2 and was running 15th on the restart with 74 laps to go.

Bell took the first two stage wins and led the series with nine stage wins in the season. He led 131 of the first 229 laps, which was the best result of the race. That was more than twice as many as any other rider in the field at the time.

“I just put myself in a bad spot, lost my composure, got back into traffic with all those yellow flags and put myself in a really bad spot going into (Turn) 1,” said Bell, who finished 36th in the 38-car field.

Larson’s eighth-place finish was good enough to maintain the 20-point NASCAR Cup Series championship lead over his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who was among those who had an incident on the final lap of the race. Hamlin trails by 43 points with eight races remaining to determine the regular season champion.

No issues were found in the post-race technical inspection at Nashville Superspeedway, making Logano’s win official. NASCAR officials also indicated that no cars would return to the Research & Development Center for further evaluation.