Penske nearly hits strategy right, but Keselowski has pit penalty, Logano not enough to hold off Larson

Chase Elliott is the best road racer in the game right now. He had won five of the last six road course races in the NASCAR Cup Series entering Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway. Martin Truex Jr. is right there in a close second to Elliott. Kyle Larson showed that you can’t overlook him now either.

Combine that, it’s not shocking that they swept the top three finishing positions in Sunday’s race on the northern California road course. But, if things went a little differently, there’s a strong case to where Team Penske could have went 1-2 instead of Hendrick Motorsports.

Joey Logano went with some wild strategy calls all day. He hit pit road on Lap 9 as most of the field did so on that Lap as well as Lap 8. They did so to get on pit lane before the Lap 10 competition caution. Normally, the field does this strategy the few laps prior to the end of the two stages. But, with a comp caution, they used that strategy then.

Logano though, was one of 15 drivers to hit pit lane during the competition caution. They were doing the same strategy was they do every other year at Sonoma. But, would this put them behind though? They were hoping more cars would pit again but this time, they didn’t.

“We had the tire issue the first run and that got our strategy off,” Logano said of his early portion of the day.

Logano, pit with the field on Lap 21 too for three pit stops on the opening 21 laps. They swapped strategy and stayed out when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out the third caution on Lap 31. That put them in the points for the second stage as he was second then.

“(Crew Chief) Paul (Wolfe) did some different things and we were able to get some stage points in the second stage,” Logano continued.

The Penske driver would pit with Larson and a few other cars on Lap 41 knowing that they’d still have one more stop to make in the final stage. But, by going long, they’d have fresher tires for the end where everyone else had to pit before.

Logano, ran the longest as he took over the lead on Lap 64 and would lead the next couple of laps before hitting pit road for what he thought was the final time on Lap 66. It was shaping up to potentially be a move to get him a top five.

Then, a few laps later, Quin Houff stalled on track and brought out the caution. This was just what Logano needed. Everyone else would likely pit. Why would they?

Logano, had pit just four laps prior, so he stayed out and took the lead. At the time, it was looking like Penske was going to go 1-2. Brad Keselowski hit pit lane just prior to that caution and was going to be in second place. The problem was, they had a tire over the pit wall too soon and Keselowski was penalized.

Logano, was on his own to hold off the hard charging Larson, Elliott and Truex Jr. He couldn’t do so but he did stay in fourth to bring his No. 22 Ford home with his third top five in the last four races on the season.

“We’ll take it,” he said. ” We had nothing to beat (Kyle Larson), if I’m being honest, but our Autotrader Mustang was good enough to finish top three or four. We kind of did that one-stop strategy the last run there and got to where we were probably a third-place car if we had the same tires as the cars racing around us.”

Logano, looks like he has a very good car on the 750 package and a day like Sunday was good for them heading into the All-Star weekend next Sunday at Texas.

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