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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

Joey Logano visited the Ally 400 victory lane for the first time in Nashville this Sunday. And it seems like the drumrolls were secretly waiting to sing for him. After all, the two-time former Cup champ would’ve crossed the winless half-century mark if he had not lasted those final overtime laps under caution.

Logano’s victory in Nashville was not just due to his skill behind the wheel, but also a well-executed overtime fuel strategy by his team. This success comes after a period of controversy surrounding the #22 team (brought to us by Joey Logano’s altered gloves at Atlanta). Therefore, one would think the team had regained its lost reputation. However, it’s their remarkable achievement of completing five overtime restarts on a single tank of gas that has sparked speculation among some fans. According to them, the team may have used an oversized fuel tank, dubbed the ‘XL Fuel tank’.”

From near empty to victory lane

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After the wet pavement at Nashville was completely dry after the Ally 400, official reports suggested that the race had lasted approximately 5 hours and 24 minutes, including the rain delay. Without a red flag, the Nashville Cup race would have taken around 4 hours and 3 minutes until conclusion. Joey Logano, who started 26th, failed to crack the top 10 in the first two stages but went on to win the race despite his slow start.

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In the final stage, where the drama reached newer heights, Logano appeared to be a man on a mission. Slowly gaining track position after 5 cautions shuffled the field, Logano made a pit stop for fuel and two tires around Lap 221 with 79 circuits remaining. Then, all hell broke loose as the Ally 400 approached its final laps, with Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain battling on the front row. First, an incident between Noah Gragson and Logano’s Penske teammate, Austin Cindric, brought out the 11th caution of the race, sending the events into overtime. What followed next could not have been anyone’s guess. Four more OT cautions extended the race by 31 laps, way beyond its officially scheduled duration.

Almost half the field was involved in these consequential incidents. Notably, front runners till that point: Chastain, Hamlin, & Kyle Larson all fell out to either wrecks or a fuel shortage, losing crucial track position in the process. All this while, Logano was one of those unlucky few, running on their last gasps of gas, and the NBC commentary booth noted that the #22 might not have enough when he took the lead following an incident involving Larson and unlucky yet again, Kyle Busch. On the final restart, Logano, quite thrillingly, beat Zane Smith (P2) & Tyler Reddick (P3) to the checkered flag as the only driver running on fumes since the first OT caution.

 

Quite an impressive feat, no doubt, as it would appear that the #22 had gone 110 laps on just two tires and his final tank of gas. Even Logano admitted in the post-race interview that his car’s “fuel light came on and it stumbled across the line”. But as Kelly Crandall noted on Twitter, “A fuel window at Nashville Superspeedway is approximately 80 laps. Joey Logano went 110 laps on his final tank.” This tidbit and the fact that the #22 Team Penske Mustang passed the post-race inspection had many fans divided over Logano’s contradictory fuel mileage conditions.

NASCAR fans divided on Joey Logano’s mileage mystery

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Owing to Team Penske’s status as a tier 1 NASCAR team, the spotlight often shines brighter on their drivers’ triumphs as well as misfortunes. Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney’s ex-champ status doesn’t necessarily help in combatting that reality. Just consider Blaney’s fuel shortage back at Team Penske’s coin-flip tale at Gateway last month. The #12 fell out of contention in the final laps on, ironically, one can of gas. This had opened up the lead for their race team’s #2 driver, Austin Cindric, to claim his first victory of the 2024 season. On the other hand, it had also opened up a can of worms for Jonathan Hassler and the entire #12 pit crew in the following weeks.

This week, however, the spotlight is on Paul Wolfe, fueler Nick Hensley, and the #22 crew. As PRN’s official Twitter handle humorously shared on Twitter, I’m not saying Joey Logano has an illegal gas tank but the fact that car’s still running would make Smokey Yunick proud.” Yunick was arguably one of the greatest crew chiefs of all time, known for his “Best Damn Garage in Town” at 957 N. Beach St in Daytona Beach, Florida. But, as PRN’s reference wanted to suggest, the 1990 Hall of Fame inductee was also known as NASCAR’s “greatest cheater,” back when races weren’t scrutinized as closely as they are today.

 

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Giving traction to PRN’s tweet, many replied to NASCAR’s official statement regarding the #22 car’s clearance from tech, claiming there’s “Absolutely no way in hell that car went 110 laps on a tank of fuel. Makes 0 sense”. Others seemed aligned with the notion that Logano’s car had “that XL fuel tank”. On Kelly Crandall’s post, fans urged that “NASCAR investigate Joey logano illegal fuel cell” because “How did the entire rest of the field like MTJ, Hamlin, Larson not make it but logano did on the same cycle.”

However, one fan commendably attempted to clarify those doubts, stating, “There was a significant amount of caution laps within the last 110 laps that greatly extended the fuel mileage that Logano was able to go on. If the entire last stint had gone green all the way to the end, there’s no one he or countless others would’ve made it.”

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According to reports, out of the 110 laps that Logano ran on one tank of gas: 69 were green flag laps and 51 passed under caution. The fuel required to run two normal laps is equivalent to that needed during three yellow flag circuits. Add to that Logano turning off his engine to save fuel under caution, and he likely kept enough to last him the final laps. As this fan had observed, Logano pulled out of line with about 50 to go and dropped to 16th. You best believe he was saving fuel.”

But skipping away from the controversy “Joey Logano ran 110 laps on a tank of fuel and only took two tires the last stop. That’s something really to behold.” After all, with Logano’s Nashville triumph, all Penske cars will now head to the 2024 playoffs.