By Dave Grayson
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup taking last Sunday off, it was expected that the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ stand alone event at the Chicagoland Speedway was going to be loaded with the names of Cup visitors on the entry list. It turned out that there was only one full time Cup visitor in the starting field of the STP 300. Joey Logano was the…re at the request of “The Captain.” That would, of course, be the driver’s team owner, Roger Penske.
Penske asked Logano to drive in this race to elevate the team’s status in the NASCAR Owner’s Points. The primary focus was to eradicate the points lead held by Joe Gibbs Racing’s #54 Toyota team and bring home the title to Penske Racing. Logano delivered in a big way by winning the STP 300.
Joey Coulter was behind the wheel of Joe Gibbs Racing’s #54 Toyota at Chicagoland and finished 14th. The Gibbs team held a 51 point advantage over Penske’s #22 team going into the Chicagoland race. Logano’s win reduced that lead to 34 points.
Logano will be pressed into service again next Saturday and will drive the Penske #22 Ford at the Nationwide Series’ race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in hopes that he can once again reduce the Gibbs’ points lead.
However, that task won’t be nearly as easy as it was last Sunday. That’s because Kyle Busch is returning to the Gibbs ride at Indy. In 18 Nationwide Series starts this year, the number 54 team has seven wins, 13 top five finishes and 13 top tens. All of those seven wins were earned by Busch.
Penske’s #22 team is also having a very strong season with five wins, 10 top fives and 12 top tens in 18 starts. Logano has delivered two of those wins.
It goes without saying that “Captain” Roger Penske also has his sights set on the Nationwide Series’ championship trophy as well. That cause was greatly enhanced by the runner up performance from full time series driver Sam Hornish Jr who gave the organization a one-two punch at Chicagoland.
Long time series points leader Regan Smith finished 13th last Sunday. That factor moved Hornish into the points lead but he’s only seven markers ahead of Smith. Also very much in this championship run are drivers Austin Dillon, minus eight points from first along with Elliott Sadler and Justin Algaier who are minus 20 and 22 points out of first.