Brad Keselowski is on a roll when it comes to NASCAR Nationwide Series racing, and Penske Racing was on a roll at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Saturday in the Zippo 200 Nationwide Series race. Keselowski led Penske to a one-two finish, claiming his fourth-straight win in his last four series starts. Teammate Sam Hornish Jr. was second.
“We had three really fast Penske cars today,” Keselowski said.
Joey Logano, in a third Penske Racing entry was running third late in the race after a fuel mileage gamble. But he ran out of gas with two laps to go and was scored 21st at the finish.
Hornish started the race from the pole, with Logano in third and Keselowski in fifth at the start. Kyle Busch, who started second, spun on the first turn on lap one and was hit by Mike Wallace, bringing out the first caution. With Smith also losing spots early, the Penske trio restarted the race in the top-three positions.
They continued to run one, two and three, with both Hornish and Keselowski leading laps until the second caution of the race came out on lap 17. Three drivers — Parker Kligerman, Kasey Kahne and Andrew Ranger — stayed out to restart first through third, but it wasn’t very long before Keselowski and Hornish made their ways back up into the second and third spots behind Kligerman.
Kligerman headed down pit road just before a lap 25 caution, returning the top-two spots back to the Penske duo of Keselowski and Hornish. When others headed down pit road, Logano moved into third. Keselowski and Hornish pulled away from the rest of the field, as Logano lost a few positions when the race returned to green.
Logano pitted for the final time when the yellow flag waved with about 40 laps to go. Other cars pitted with him but they returned to pit road to top off their fuel tanks several laps later. Those who stayed out under the caution, including Keselowski and Hornish, headed down pit road for fuel and service with about 30 laps remaining.
Logano led several laps after his teammates pitted. Keselowski and Hornish joined their teammate up front after everyone else besides Logano cycled through their final stops. They both got by Logano in the final 20 laps and, like before, pulled away for a two-car, one team race to the finish.
“I was overdriving the crap out of the car, trying to force Brad to make a mistake,” Hornish said.
Although Keselowski didn’t give up the lead, he did admit to not being perfect in the final laps.
“I made a couple of little mistakes,” Keselowski said. “I thought he was going to get me, to be honest. Just tried not to make any big ones.”
Both Brian Vickers and Regan Smith got by Logano as his car sputtered on its last remaining drops of fuel to finish third and fourth. After Logano ran completely out of fuel, Elliott Sadler also went by to finish fifth. Finishing sixth through 10th were Kligerman, Justin Allgaier, Cole Whitt, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Trevor Bayne.
Nationwide Series points leader Austin Dillon suffered a fuel pickup issue and struggled to a 12th-place finish. Despite finishing outside the top-10, he maintained his points lead, but Hornish, with his second-place finish, pulled to within three points of Dillon. Only five points separate first through third in the championship points standings. Smith occupies the third spot.
“When we’d get to about nine gallons of fuel, it would just stop running,” Dillon said. “We’re lucky to get out of here with that.”
Counting Keselowski and Logano, there were four Sprint Cup Series regulars in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, the other two being Busch and Kasey Kahne. After his first-lap troubles, Busch was credited with a 24th-place finish. Kahne wound up 18th after a flat tire in the second half of the race.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR