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Logano Wins Inaugural Enjoy Illinois 300 in Overtime

Joey Logano assured himself of a Playoff berth after a winning day at Gateway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Joey Logano assured himself of a Playoff berth after a winning day at Gateway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

MADISON, Illinois – Joey Logano was an afterthought for much of the Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

It wasn’t until lap 208 that Logano even saw the lead. Once he got there, the driver of the No. 22  Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang did not want to relinquish it.

The inaugural event at the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval just outside of St. Louis saw a lot of side-by-side racing outside of the top five, which proved that clean air was key for the Next Gen NASCAR Cup Series cars.

Also, it meant pit stops were once again going to be a very important factor in winning the race, especially on a pit road that can now claim to be the tightest on the Cup schedule.

Following the race, Logano’s crew chief Paul Wolfe said. “The two ends of the race track being so different caused them to come into this race looking at set-ups from other tracks.”

Wolfe continued by mentioning one specific aspect he and many others based today’s set-up on.

“We look at this as a short track, so we focused there coming into this,” he observed. “Phoenix is really the closest that we go to in regards to tire wear, two different ends of the track, and having to fight with the set-up.”

With two wins in the last four races for Team Penske, Wolfe noted, “It’s all been up and down this year. The learning curve is so steep this year we never know what each week is going to give us. But, this track gives us another really good data point for building this team for the second part of the year.

“It’s really going to be a lot of work, but this race will really help us if we make it to Phoenix. Short tracks have really been our strength this year.”

Even though short tracks have provided lackluster racing this year, World Wide Technology Raceway offered a lot of side-by-side racing.

Wolfe expanded on this, saying, “Even without having a lot of tire wear here, it was competitive. Albeit, I did think whoever got out front was going to win the race, so I was really impressed with the move Joey put on Kyle (Busch) there on the final restart.”

It was a green-white-checkered finish that forced Logano to make a strong move into turn one after the final caution came out.

With two laps to go, Kevin Harvick bounced off the wall in turn three. This would bring out the last caution of the day.

The final restart saw Logano and Busch lined up side by side with Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney, lined up directly behind Logano.

Team Penske Executive Vice President Walt Czarnecki said, “I have to give a big shoutout to Ryan Blaney. He really helped his teammate and gave him the push that helped get around Busch.”

(Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“Racing Kyle Busch for the win is always tough,” Logano said. “But, I drove in there and he knew the slide job was coming. I knew he was going to cross me back over, but I was able to cut back and get in front of him off two.

“If we came off two side by side, who knows how this thing would have gone. But clean air is everything in today’s Cup Series racing.”

The No. 22 team won the inaugural Bristol Dirt race, the L.A. Coliseum and Gateway.

“We just are able to really adjust on a car through a race and things work out. I’m not sure why we’re so good at new events,” Logano said. “For this race, we were just fast, plus even though there wasn’t a lot of tire fall off, the track rubbered up very well. I was a little surprised to see it widen out as much as it did, there were times we were up a lane of the wall, the next lap right down on the bottom.”

In the end, it was the bottom lane that worked well and gave Logano his second win of the season. As a bonus, he gets to take home a very nice trophy from St. Louis crafted after a 1904 Worlds fair trophy.

With Logano winning at Gateway, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five. NASCAR makes its way to Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 12 at 4 p.m. ET for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Defending race winner, Kyle Larson, looks to rebound from his 12th place finish.

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera. I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO. The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth. Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras. My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports. See you at a track soon

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