WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — After creating the customary cloud of smoke before his third straight trip to victory lane at Watkins Glen International, Joey Logano was beaming.READ MORE: Mild Celebrations In Downtown Dallas Follow Derek Chauvin Guilty Verdict
“Confidence is high,” Logano said Saturday after his second straight dominant performance in the Xfinity race at The Glen. “It’s a great thing for Team Penske. We’ve been off to a rough start this year.”
Just as he did a year ago, Logano started from the pole in the Zippo 200 and dominated, leading 67 of 82 laps. It was Logano’s 26th win in the series and the first Xfinity triumph for Penske since November, a span of 21 races.
Teammate Brad Keselowski, who started second, was in contention the entire race until a track bar malfunction sent him to the pits while running second with six laps to go. He finished 24th.
Paul Menard finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Trevor Bayne and points leader Elliott Sadler.
Kyle Busch challenged for the lead early, but damage to his splitter forced him to the pits and he also was involved in a nine-car crash that sent him to the garage.
Running second, Busch had to pit during the race’s first caution for repairs to his splitter, which was damaged running over the track’s new curbing, and dropped far back in the field. The big crash came in the high-speed esses and brought out a red flag on lap 19.
“This is really unfortunate,” crew chief Chris Gayle said. “When you know you have as fast of a car as we did, and to not have the opportunity to complete the race, it’s just really disappointing. Kyle just got caught up in something that we never should have been around.”
Ryan Sieg precipitated the pileup, getting into Todd Bodine as the cars snaked uphill into the narrowest section of the track with virtually no visibility ahead.
“I got sideways. I thought I had it but it hooked right,” said Bodine, who grew up in nearby Chemung, New York, and considers Watkins Glen his home track. “It was a hard hit. The car is junk. It’s the first time I’ve ever wrecked at Watkins Glen. I know these guys want to make a name for themselves. Sometimes, you’ve got to give. I was in line and I think Ryan thought he was just going to dive in there.”
Bodine careened sideways into the wall after contact with Blake Koch and cars began pinballing off one another in a chain-reaction crash, also taking out Darrell Wallace Jr., J.J. Yeley, Ryan Ellis, and Tomy Drissi. Bodine, Drissi, and Koch were treated at the infield care center and released.READ MORE: Texas Sees Above-Average Number Of COVID-19 Cases And Deaths Tuesday
“Just bad luck we continue to have,” said a dejected Wallace, who is ninth in points. “Hopefully, we can shake it off. I felt really good where we were at. Just not our day.”
Keselowski scooted past unscathed on the left side to remain in contention in 10th.
By the midpoint of the race, Logano, Keselowski and Larson were running 1-2-3 and during a round of pit stops Larson pitted from the lead. He exited pit road just ahead of the Penske cars moments before rookie Erik Jones ran out of gas while running third to bring out another caution.
Ty Dillon then inherited the lead but was penalized for a commitment line violation while heading to the pits.
When the race restarted, Larson and Suarez were on the front row but not for long. One lap later the Penske cars were 1-2, with Logano leading the way as it became a two-car race to the finish.
Derrike Cope brought out the sixth caution on lap 60 when he slid into the runoff area in the chicane and the front of his No. 70 Chevrolet exploded. He was not injured, and after exiting the car was unsure exactly what had happened.
Keselowski, who never led but ran second for nearly half the race, challenged Logano on the restart and dogged him as the laps wound down, trying to pressure him into a mistake. It was a futile effort for the No. 22 Ford, which finished 24th.
“It was a lot of fun racing against him,” said Logano, who also won the Sprint Cup race at The Glen a year ago. “That’s the guy you know the best. He knows what I’m doing up front. We’re trying to battle each other. We both want to win.”
Logano maintained his slim edge in the No. 12 Ford and was home-free when his teammate had to pit, beating a fast-closing Menard by 1.5 seconds.
“It was a hard-fought one for sure. I was pretty sure my car wasn’t going to hold together,” Logano said. “I know I was out there making qualifying laps for 20 laps. I’m glad I had enough of a cushion.”MORE NEWS: 'Verdict Not Justice, It's Accountability': North Texas Leaders React To Derek Chauvin Guilty On All Counts
(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)