Food City 500

Joey Logano’s crew chief explains call to pit for tires late at Bristol

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Todd Gordon admits hindsight may be 20-20.

Joey Logano‘s crew chief reflected Monday on “The Morning Drive” on what he may have done differently at the end of Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

With Logano leading late in the race, Gordon debated whether to bring his driver in for tires. When Kyle Larson hit the wall on Lap 479, bringing out the caution, Gordon made the call to bring Logano in for four tires.

I thought we were in position to win the race, but the late caution threw up a decision-making time and with the information I had at the time, I chose one route and probably could have been a different route,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

MORE: Joey Logano finishes third at Bristol after pitting from lead late

Gordon entered the pits as the race leader, only to watch Kyle Busch remain on the track and take the lead on Lap 482. 

“We had been 33 laps on tires, thought we were going to have about 18 (laps) to go (before the restart),” Gordon said. “The sort out (of the lineup) afterwards took a bit longer than I thought so we had about 15 (laps) to go when we got done. … I was scanning the radios and the 18 (Busch) said it might stay out, but my concern was that if we and the 18 stayed out and everybody else behind us comes to get tires, then there’s tires lined up on the rows behind us.

I didn’t want to be that guy that stayed out and then got beat by tires behind us. It was a last-minute call. We had talked back and forth about whether to stay out or come for tires. I felt like if we stayed out, my opinion was we were going to see tires in Row 2 and at worse in Row 3 and it didn’t end up being that way. When we came off pit road, I think we ended up in Row 4.

It’s just trying to anticipate what other crew chiefs are going to do with their cars is a gamble and a guess and as (the race) leader, I think we had a really strong car and everybody knew we had a strong car. I think at times people react to whatever decision you make and go the opposite way. If we stay out, I don’t know that everybody that stayed out stays out, but we’ll never know that and you try to make the decisions you can with the information you have at the time. Immediately once you see how many guys stayed out, it’s pretty evident maybe we should have made the other call.”

Logano, who won Stage 2, finished third and led the second-most laps in the race (146). 

In the future, do you make that call differently? I don’t know,” Gordon said. “You take the information you have at the time and make decisions from the information you’ve got. You’re never going to make every call right. People can second-guess what you do and where it goes and it’s very easy to sit back on Monday and say they should have run the ball instead of throwing it.

They’re reactionary calls. You can’t calculate every situation. In this one, could I have gone the other way? Yes. Was I all the way into the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 before I made the call for him to come because I was waffling on it? I got to the point where it was a 50-50 call in my head and when I get to 50-50 calls, I go for putting tires on because Joey is an awesome, aggressive driver and when we put him in those positions, he usually elevates.”

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Stewart-Haas Racing drivers have roller coaster day at Bristol

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Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway for NASCAR Cup teams can often be like riding a roller coaster: up and down, side to side and forward and backward.

That’s the perfect description for how Sunday’s Food City 500 went for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Here’s how the day went for the organization:

* Kevin Harvick found himself behind the eight ball even before the green flag fell. Harvick’s car failed to pass pre-race inspection three times, leading to his engineer being ejected from the track.

Harvick then had to perform a pass-through penalty at the start for the inspection issue. There was a silver lining, as he avoided the wreck on Lap 3 that involved teammate Aric Almirola, as well as Ricky Stenhouse Jr., William Byron, Kyle Busch and Ryan Preece.

Later in the race, Harvick had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel .

To their credit, however, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers ended up with a 13th-place finish. Harvick did not offer any quotes on his day after the race.

* Clint Bowyer was the highest-finishing SHR driver, ending up seventh, but he was disappointed afterward because he felt he should have finished in the top five, which didn’t happen primarily due to late-race contact with Joey Logano.

That contact led to a cut tire for Bowyer, who clipped the wall, ending his chance for a top five.

We had a good car, it’s just horribly disappointingg,” Bowyer said. “You get that close. Long runs were my strong suit. I couldn’t take off all day long. Some of those things made sense. We were down a little bit on air and it took a little bit of time for them to come in. The problem is when you balance around that and you just pump the air-pressure up, then it doesn’t work either and you don’t handle there. It’s just disappointing.”

Still, Bowyer said the contact with Logano was just a racing deal.

He was racing me pretty hard,” Bowyer said. “I could get under him. I saw that I could get under him and he would diamond it and just didn’t leave me much room there. It’s time to race. There’s no question about it. We just barely touched and it must have cut the valve stem out of it or something and hit it just right. Maybe his fender caught it or something, I don’t know.

That’s about typical luck for here. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We put ourselves in position.”

* Daniel Suarez extended his streak of top 10 finishes to three straight races with an eighth-place showing. But he also had struggles at times, including being assessed a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his pit box when a crew member pulled tape off the front grill as the car was leaving the stall and the action was performed outside the box.

Today was difficult,” Suarez admitted. “We made a lot of mistakes that we were lucky to overcome and finish in the top 10. I’m proud of that. We have to keep better, but it’s kind of good that we’re making these mistakes now so we can clean them up and be stronger in the second part of the season. We have a very good team. We have great race cars and it’s always good to perform well. Today, we had a lot of speed. I felt like we had top five speed at times and when we’re not very good we have top 10 speed and that’s where we ended up, so after all of those mistakes it was still a decent day.”

* Having the roughest day of all – watching it end just after three laps – was Aric Almirola, whose streak of six consecutive top 10 finishes come to an end with a last-place (37th) finish.

Almirola was forced into the wall on Lap 3 when William Byron came off a corner and rode up into Almirola’s No. 10 Ford. Almirola took his car to the garage, ending his day.

The 24 (William Byron) just got loose under me,” Almirola said. “He struggled to get going on the initial start. He spun his tires and then was just loose and out of control that whole first lap. When we went down in Turn 1, he lost it under me and wiped us out. I’m pretty frustrated. You work all weekend, all week getting ready for the event and to make it one lap is kind of uncalled for, so I’m disappointed, frustrated, but life goes on. We’ll go to Richmond.”

Almirola felt the incident was due to “some of it is inexperience on William’s part. I think he started to panic because he started to lose spots on the start because he spun his tires on the start, and probably a little bit over his head with the tire pressures and everything not coming up and he just lost it. He got loose underneath me, lost it and ran right into the side of us and wrecked us. Part of that comes with experience, I guess, but, either way, it doesn’t change the outcome for us today.

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Joey Logano finishes third at Bristol after pitting from lead late

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If there’s one thing you don’t want to see in a NASCAR race when you’re leading with less than 25 laps to go, it’s a caution.

That’s what Joey Logano saw in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, eight laps after he took the lead from teammate Brad Keselowski.

Logano’s No. 22 Ford led when Kyle Larson brought out the caution flag after hitting the wall twice on Lap 478 of 500.

Logano’s team than had to make an important decision: pit or not pit?

“You know everyone is going to make their decision off of what you do,” Logano said. “If you stay out, you’ve got to expect half the field is going to pit, maybe more. If you come in, five or six stayed (out), so it’s just part of the game.”

While race winner Kyle Busch, runner-up Kurt Busch and sixth-place finisher Paul Menard remained on the track, Logano and the rest of the leaders pitted. Logano took four tires. Keselowski took two.

The race restarted with 14 laps to go, but with confusion on where Keselowski needed to line up.

As a result, Logano restarted seventh, but on the outside of a three-wide pairing of him, Keselowski and Austin Dillon

Logano was able to navigate his way into third position on his four fresh tires, but not fast enough to take a shot at the Busch brothers.

“It’s really hard to pass and by the time I got to third those cars were so far ahead of me I was stuck and was not going to get to them,” Logano said.

Keselowski took the blame for holding up Logano’s chances at the win.

“I screwed my teammate,” Keselowski told Fox Sports. “(Logano) had four new tires. We were all jumbled up like that and he was going to eat those guys alive and since we were so jumbled up, he didn’t get an opportunity, so I feel bad about that. It took two of the best cars that were in the race and took them out of it and handed it to Kyle.”

Logano’s third-place finish is his fourth top five of the year and follows miserable races for the No. 22 team at Martinsville and Texas.

Despite losing a chance at a third Bristol win, Logano won the second stage and led 146 laps, part of an effort by Team Penske to lead 344 of 500 laps.

“It stinks when you have the fastest car and don’t win, but it’s a team sport and it takes every piece to make it work,” Logano said.  “We had the car part figured out today, we just missed it on some other ends and just have to keep fighting hard. We got a stage win and that was nice, and led a lot of laps, but you want to win at Bristol so bad. Bristol is the coolest track. You see the start-finish line and think you’re going to get it, but things happen quick here.”

What Drivers Said after Bristol

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway:

Kyle Busch – winner: We’re crazy. We just do what we do, try to win. It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol. Love this place. It was fun to battle out the brother there at the end. I know we didn’t quite get side-by-side racing it out. I saw him working the top. I’m like, I better go. I got up there, was able to make some ground. Man, just awesome to be here in front of this crowd, here at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Skittles Camry wasn’t the best today, but we made the most of not having the best and got everything we needed here at the end. … (On having won eight times now at Bristol; Darrell Waltrip has 12 wins) It ain’t 12, that’s for sure. So I got more to go. We’re getting there and it’s fun. It’s the most (among) active driver(s), I guess. I think I heard that. But, you know, there’s a lot more years left hopefully. … I felt like we had to overcome a lot especially there just on the short runs. We just didn’t have the burst-off speed that we needed for the first 30-40 laps. It kind of seemed after that we could maintain with a bunch of those guys and then we could kind of run those guys back down just a little bit. It was hit or miss a little for us today and this weekend. We thought we had a pretty good car in second practice yesterday and going into the race. We just didn’t quite have the speed. We just didn’t show exactly what we needed there. … I love winning at Bristol. You love winning everywhere. It’s nice to continue to bounty up some of those bonus points for the playoffs.”

Kurt Buschfinished second: It was tough battling our No. 1 Chevy. The Monster Energy team is doing a good job. But that one was tough. I really wanted to beat him. I was going to wreck him (laughter). I was wanting to stay close enough so that when we took the white, I was just going to drive straight into (Turns) 3 and 4; I mean he’s already won. I figured he could give a little love to his brother, but no. I wanted that one bad. I feel like him right now. I’m like ugh, I’m mad because I didn’t win. But, this car, we’re struggling on qualifying and we struggle on taking off. And, I just can’t get the right rear to grip until it gets heat in it. And, it’s hard to be patient when you’re running for the win on old tires. So, I’m happy that we were in position to do it, this group of guys. We’re not quite ready to win yet, but that was close. And I was going to wreck my little brother to win today. But with three laps to go, I just stepped out in Turn 1 and I wasn’t close enough after that. But, thanks to (crew chief) Matt McCall and everybody at Ganassi. This No. 1 Monster Chevy is fast. We’ve just got to fine-tune it all.”

Joey Loganofinished third: “Right at the end there, I thought when we got by the 2 (teammate Brad Keselowski), I said, ‘If I can just hold him off, that’s the pass for the win.’ I was pretty confident we were gonna be able to do that for 15 laps or so and then the caution came out and what do you do? Do you pit? Do you stay out? You know a few of them are gonna stay out. It’s really hard to pass and by the time I got to third those cars were so far ahead of me I was stuck and was not going to get to them. It stinks when you have the fastest car and don’t win, but it’s a team sport and it takes every piece to make it work. We had the car part figured out today, we just missed it on some other ends and just have to keep fighting hard. We got a stage win and that was nice, and led a lot of laps, but you want to win at Bristol so bad. Bristol is the coolest track. You see the start-finish line and think you’re gonna get it, but things happen quick here.”

Ryan Blaneyfinished fourth: “I need to get better as the track kind of rubbers out. Joey is really good at it. I thought he had the best car, probably. The track rubbers in and I just need to do something different there. Overall, not a bad day. We were up there all race and just tried to keep up with the track. The track was really racy today from bottom to top. I thought it put on a really good show.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “We struggled today. We just didn’t really have the car that we needed to go out there and compete. It was just a little bit off. We kind of hung around that 10th to 13th place all day and then we just got it closer there at the end and that’s when we kind of made a charge towards the front – that and some good strategy. I screwed up our strategy on pit lane. We’ll get it cleaned up. Just got to work through all the kinks and clean stuff up. We didn’t have a race-winning car. Top-five finish with a car that probably shouldn’t have been there is a good day.”

Paul Menardfinished sixth: “We qualified really well and had good track position from the start. I messed up our first pit stop and got us behind. I went to neutral to stop and it popped into third, so I killed the car. I put us behind doing that and track position is so important. Greg (crew chief Greg Erwin) made a good call to stay out and came home with a top 10.”

Clint Bowyerfinished seventh: “We had a good car, it’s just horribly disappointing. You get that close. Long runs were my strong suit. I couldn’t take off all day long. Some of those things made sense. We were down a little bit on air and it took a little bit of time for them to come in. The problem is when you balance around that and you just pump the air-pressure up, then it doesn’t work either and you don’t handle there. It’s just disappointing.”

Daniel Suarezfinished eighth: “Today was difficult. We made a lot of mistakes that we were lucky to overcome and finish in the top 10. I’m proud of that. We have to keep better, but it’s kind of good that we’re making these mistakes now so we can clean them up and be stronger in the second part of the season. We have a very good team. We have great race cars and it’s always good to perform well. Today, we had a lot of speed. I felt like we had top five speed at times and when we’re not very good we have top 10 speed and that’s where we ended up, so after all of those mistakes it was still a decent day.”

Ryan Newmanfinished ninth: “It was a good run for us. We had a car better than what we finished. I’m not sure what the call was on pit road there with the penalty, but then I don’t know why we ended up having to start fifth when we were actually sixth. It was a penalty to be moved up a spot, but a good run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford. The guys did a good job today, we just don’t have the total result to show for it, but it’s definitely and improvement and I’m proud of them.”

Jimmie Johnsonfinished 10th: “We did make a jump in our performance so I hope we can find another chunk that quickly that will put us in that top-five mix consistently. I think we are going to right way and I am very optimistic about that, so I am very thankful and grateful for that. We will celebrate these small victories and get ready for the big one.”

Chase Elliott – finished 11th: “Definitely not what we started out hoping for. We got turned late in the race, that was about it. We fell behind from there. Had a great car, even without the power steering.”

Austin Dillonfinished 14th: “We had a struggle with our Camaro all day. It wasn’t ever really good but somehow we maintained, stayed on the lead lap. More attrition, working hard to stay up there. At one point we got the car pretty decent. The car was pretty tight, but it was decent. There at the end I hit the wall because we had the rear to free. It damaged it. So through all that, 14th is 14th. But I’ll take it.”

Ty Dillonfinished 15th: (On his stage win) “That was huge for our team, to go head-to-head with the top teams is huge for GEICO and Germain Racing. That was a really cool moment, something we are really proud of. We are proud of the direction we are going with our race team. We are going to keep getting better for Chevrolet, GEICO and Germain Racing. I’m really proud of how we are doing with our Camaro.”

BRAD KESELOWSKIfinished 18th: (On restart controversy where he was penalized) “Nobody could figure out the lineup. There wasn’t enough communication and it was just a tough deal.”

Kyle Larsonfinished 19th: “Not much up to it. We had a loose wheel and we had to come down pit road and lost two laps. Then we had an uncontrolled tire. Had a penalty for that and lost a lap. We fought back to get on the lead lap and then had a right front tire going down, so we lost a lap and finished a lap down. Not much to show for how quick our Camaro was today.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 30th: “Man, what a day. We knew going into today’s race we had a tall task ahead of us, but a few things in the opening stage made it an even tougher day. When the first caution of the race happened, I had slowed down but got hit from behind and received damage to the nose of the No. 8 Caterpillar/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The pit crew did a good job making the necessary repairs, and we were logging some laps in the top 20 when we just got hit from behind by the No. 15, spun and backed into the wall. That hurt the handling of the car pretty bad, and it was all I could do to hang on for the rest of the day. This was definitely a frustrating race, but the crew never gave up all weekend and made the most of the situation. Here’s hoping we find some good luck soon. We just need a clean race, and that is the goal next weekend in Richmond.”

Aric Almirola — finished 37th: “The 24 (William Byron) just got loose under me. He struggled to get going on the initial start. He spun his tires and then was just loose and out of control that whole first lap. When we went down in turn one he lost it under me and wiped us out. I’m pretty frustrated. You work all weekend, all week getting ready for the event and to make it one lap is kind of uncalled for, so I’m disappointed, frustrated, but life goes on. We’ll go to Richmond. Honestly, I think some of it is inexperience on William’s part. I think he started to panic because he started to lose spots on the start because he spun his tires on the start, and probably a little bit over his head with the tire pressures and everything not coming up and he just lost it. He got loose underneath me, lost it and ran right into the side of us and wrecked us. Part of that comes with experience, I guess, but, either way, it doesn’t change the outcome for us today.””

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Busch brothers put on a show: Kyle wins Bristol, Kurt finishes second

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It was the Busch brothers show Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway as younger brother Kyle won the Food City 500, while older sibling Kurt finished second.

It was Kyle Busch’s eighth career Cup win at the .533-mile short track, depriving Kurt of his seventh win there. The younger Busch also recorded a series-leading third win in the first eight races of 2019, as well as capturing the 54th win of his Cup career, tying him for 10th on the NASCAR all-time wins list with Hall of Famer Lee Petty.

It looked like it might not be Kyle Busch’s day after being rear-ended by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on Lap 2. But Busch was able to work his way through the field. The biggest key came during the race’s final caution when Busch stayed out with 20 laps to go and held on to take the checkered flag.

Kyle Busch wins the Food City 500 at Bristol. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“We’re crazy, we just do what we do to try to win,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “It’s awesome that we were able to snooker those guys to be able to get our win. I love this place. It was fun to battle my brother there at the end. We didn’t quite get side-by-side racing, but I saw him working the top and I’m like, ‘I better go’ and I was able to make up some ground.

This is the second time the brothers have finished 1-2 in a Cup race (the other time was at Sonoma in 2015).

What’s more, the Busch brothers have combined to win the last four races at BMS, dating back to August 2017.

“That one’s tough, I really wanted to beat (Kyle), I was going to wreck him,” Kurt Busch laughed to FS1. “I was wanting to stay close enough so that when we took the white, I was just going to drive into him in (Turns) 3 and 4. He already won (twice this season) and figured he could give a little love to his brother. Nah.”

It was Kurt Busch’s best finish of the season.

Joey Logano finished third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Race Results

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ty Dillon (first stage victory of his Cup career).

STAGE 2 WINNER: Joey Logano.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Jimmie Johnson finished 10th, earning his second consecutive top-10 finish. … Paul Menard and Ryan Newman both earned their respective first top-10 finishes of the season. … Daniel Suarez earned his third straight top 10 and fourth of the season. … Ryan Blaney led a race-high 158 laps.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Things got off to a rough start with a Lap 2 wreck that included Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola (who was knocked out of the race after the impact), Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

NOTABLE: Kevin Harvick had a rough start to the day but rallied late to finish 13th. Before the race, his engineer was ejected fafter Harvick’s car failed to pass pre-race inspection three times. Harvick had to start from the back of the field and do a pass through penalty at the start. Then Harvick had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel .

WHAT’S NEXT: Toyota Owners 400 this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET at Richmond Raceway.

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