NASCAR Barometer: Logano Fuels his Way to Victory

NASCAR Barometer: Logano Fuels his Way to Victory

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Joey Logano outlasted Kevin Harvick on fuel mileage to pass the No. 4 driver on the final lap of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. The No. 22 car last won in February's Daytona 500, but swept both Xfinity and Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen last weekend. Logano worked his way forward, making few to no mistakes, to come from 16th starting position to lead only the final lap. It was Kevin Harvick who looked destined to win after fuel strategy played its hand, but he turned out to have pitted one lap too soon. Harvick led 29 laps, but coasted across the line to finish third. Brad Keselowski was the other late leader, but his fuel strategy wasn't able to give him the track position necessary to challenge for the win.

The series is on a tear to the Chase for the Championship with just a handful of races remaining for drivers to stake their claim to an entry. The season's second visit to Michigan International is this weekend, and there are more than a few drivers aiming to claim a victory and their spot in the Chase. Let's see how their performances in Watkins Glen will impact those efforts.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano - Logano did everything he needed to do on Sunday to complete the weekend sweep and win in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen. It had been a long dry spell for Logano having last won in the Daytona 500

Joey Logano outlasted Kevin Harvick on fuel mileage to pass the No. 4 driver on the final lap of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. The No. 22 car last won in February's Daytona 500, but swept both Xfinity and Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen last weekend. Logano worked his way forward, making few to no mistakes, to come from 16th starting position to lead only the final lap. It was Kevin Harvick who looked destined to win after fuel strategy played its hand, but he turned out to have pitted one lap too soon. Harvick led 29 laps, but coasted across the line to finish third. Brad Keselowski was the other late leader, but his fuel strategy wasn't able to give him the track position necessary to challenge for the win.

The series is on a tear to the Chase for the Championship with just a handful of races remaining for drivers to stake their claim to an entry. The season's second visit to Michigan International is this weekend, and there are more than a few drivers aiming to claim a victory and their spot in the Chase. Let's see how their performances in Watkins Glen will impact those efforts.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano - Logano did everything he needed to do on Sunday to complete the weekend sweep and win in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen. It had been a long dry spell for Logano having last won in the Daytona 500 at the start of the season, but the circumstances have improved recently. Logano and Penske Racing have taken a tremendous step forward in recent weeks, and Logano's second win of the season caps off the charge. The win earns him momentum as he heads into the Chase, but could mean even more this week. He has five consecutive top-5 finishes at Michigan, which could imply that he will have another strong outing this week.

Kyle Busch -
Busch had the bit between his teeth in Watkins Glen. The hottest driver on the circuit used track position to challenge then leader Brad Keselowski. The No. 18 tapped Keselowski to unsettle the No. 2 and take advantage to gain the lead. Almost immediately after a yellow flag took away that track position due to his need to pit, though. He worked his way forward again, and took advantage of Kevin Harvick's fuel shortage to claim a runner-up finish. Road courses are quickly becoming Busch's signature. The No. 18's only Michigan win came in 2011, and he hasn't finished inside the top 20 there since 2013, but fantasy players shouldn't pay too much attention to those numbers right now.

Kevin Harvick -
Harvick had the car that many teams were tipping for victory before Sunday's race, but the circumstances came up just shy. As attrition played its hand and the miles wore on, it was Harvick that came to the fore as predicted. His Watkins Glen resume would not have suggested he would be the road course driver in store for victory last week, but he held station out front for quite some time before losing fuel pressure on the final lap. As successful as last week was, Michigan could prove to be even better for the No. 4. The reigning champion has a victory there along with four consecutive runner-up finishes before his last visit when he finished 29th.

Brad Keselowski -
Keselowski continued to show that Penske Racing is back for business after fading in the middle of the season. Keselowski battled Busch valiantly in the middle of last week's race, but lost the lead when contact with Busch unsettled him into the penultimate corner. A caution just shortly after that incident put the No. 2 deep in the field due to his need to stop for fuel. Keselowski was able to force his way back into the top-10, but didn't have enough muscle to come further forward. Keselowski has never won at Michigan, but finished inside the top 10 in each of the last three races at the track, and should be a confident early selection.

DOWNGRADE

A.J. Allmendinger - After heading into Sunday's race as the dominant driver Allmendinger failed to restart his car under a yellow flag, which forced him to be pushed to pit road. The team took a bit of time to get the car fired again, but the damage was already done. Allmendinger was deep in the field after being one of the top drivers in the early miles. He eventually earned his way back onto the lead lap, but then came up short of fuel and finished 24th. The New York road course may have been Allmendinger's best chance to qualify for the Chase, and that opportunity slipped by. He has yet to score a top-10 at Michigan, so asking for a top finish may be a bit much this week.

Denny Hamlin -
To be fair, not much was expected from Hamlin at Watkins Glen. The driver hasn't been strong on the road course circuits since very early in his career, and last week was another disappointment. The driver first endured a penalty for speeding only to have contact on the following restart and lost his front hood. The team cut the remaining pieces off after pitting, but brought out the race's second caution for the debris they left on the track. The good news for Hamlin is that he is a two-time Michigan winner and finished 11th there earlier this summer. The No. 11 will need to regain some momentum next week before heading into the Chase.

Greg Biffle -
Watkins Glen should have been an opportunity for Biffle to neutralize some of the struggles Roush Fenway Racing has had in 2015, but an early flat tire damaged that opportunity. His fast first practice was not an indication of weekend success. His flat tire brought out the first caution of Sunday's race, and put the No. 16 to the back of the field. He was never able to recover from that and finished 14th in a race that could have offered much more. Biffle has been very strong at Michigan through his career, though not recently. He finished 36th there earlier this season and needs another opportunity to score a top result before this season ends.

Austin Dillon -
Dillon had a good opportunity to turn in one of his best finishes of the season last week in Watkins Glen, but circumstances conspired against him. First, contact with Kyle Larson sent him spinning in turn 1, and that incident was only followed up by a flat rear tire that brought out a caution and sent Dillon to pit road for repairs. The Richard Childress Racing driver had been showing consistent strides in the positive direction prior to Sunday's trouble, and he will want to rediscover that momentum this week in Michigan. There aren't many races remaining in the season for Dillon to qualify for the Chase. He has yet to score a top-10 at the track, and finished 20th there earlier this year.

Kasey Kahne -
After a terrible finish at Pocono Raceway two weeks ago Kahne encountered more issues last week in Watkins Glen. The Hendrick Motorsports driver must now win to work his way into a Chase position, but that seems a distant task recently. Kahne didn't have the best start to last week's race and was deep in the field for a restart that saw an accordion pile-up that seriously damaged his chassis and knocked him out of the race. Kahne lost more ground as a result of that incident and had a huge hole that he wasn't able to dig out of. Michigan is a good track for him, though. Kahne won there in 2006 and started from pole earlier this season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Kyle Larson - One good race at Watkins Glen could be gifted to nearly any driver, however Larson has booked two consecutive top runs at the track. The No. 42 had four stops on the day, but still was inside the top-5 runners in the closing laps. Watkins Glen is not an easy track to find success, yet Larson has impressed on both outings. His three tries in Michigan have been more diverse in terms of results, though. He finished eighth in his first try there, but then tallied a DNF and finished 17th earlier this year. Larson needs a win to get in the Chase, but he continues to rediscover his rookie-season form as the 2015 season winds down.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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