Sometimes you’ve just got to call an audible.
Joey Logano had a car good enough to win Saturday’s Nationwide race, but so did several other drivers. The difference in this race would be small, so doing something different – even just for different sake – was worth the risk.
So when crew chief Jeremy Bullins saw other teams taking on four tires in that last pit stop, he frantically shouted, “Two-two-two-two!”
Two was enough, as Logano held off Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth to win the 5-hour Energy 200 at Dover International Speedway.
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This was Logano’s third consecutive Nationwide victory at Dover, though this is anything but routine. Bullins knew Kenseth would have to take four tires because he’d taken two on his previous pit stop. The trick was anticipating what the other top drivers would do, and Bullins’ guess proved the right one.
“It was a late call, but it was something we had to do,” Logano said. “What a smart guy, huh?”
Bullins was concerned about Kyle Busch, who was trying to pull off a Dover triple, after winning the truck race Friday and looking like a contender in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
“I was waiting to see what they did,” Bullins said of Busch’s Toyota team.
Busch finished fifth, but he didn’t second-guess the decision to take four tires. He said he’d rather have the additional grip, even at the expense of a longer pit stop, but he could never capitalize the rest of the way, as it was so hard to pass.
Vickers ended up giving Logano whatever challenge there was at the end because he also took two tires to maintain track position.
“It was a last-minute call and it was 1,000 percent the right call, keeping track position,” Vickers said. “I think if we would have started on the outside of (Logano on the restart) we would have had the advantage going into Turn One and maybe had the chance to take the lead and keep it.
“He was probably a little bit better on the short run, and we were a little bit better on the long run.”
Logano’s victory was all about improvisation, even before the last-second decision to take two tires. His team didn’t like what it was getting from the Ford in practice Friday, so Bullins made a slew of adjustments before Saturday qualifying.
“We didn’t feel we were good enough to win,” Logano said, “So we changed just about everything on it.”