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Debate

Is Joey Logano right about the biggest mileage killer, or is he just making excuses?

Joey Logano couldn’t get to the finish line fast enough. With Zane Smith hot on his heels and his No. 22 Ford sputtering and nearly running out of gas, it was a nervy finish for the Team Penske racing driver. Call it luck, smart strategy, or a combination of two, Logano deserved his victory at Nashville Superspeedway. He held off a pack of pursuers while stretching his fuel to almost the last drop, to secure his first win of the season.

Logano succeeded where favorites Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson failed, as both the veterans ran out of gas when it mattered. This meant that despite leading the race, Denny Hamlin finished 12th, after being forced to pit during overtime after running out of fuel, while Kyle Larson finished eighth.

Team Penske’s ginormous risk pays off for Joey Logano

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Running on fumes, an elated Joey Logano crossed the finish line after surviving a record five overtimes that extended the race to 331 laps. It was his first win since Atlanta in 2023, and it wasn’t easy. The Team Penske driver held off Tyler Reddick not once, but twice in the final lap on Turn 1 and Turn 4, finishing just 0.068s ahead of Zane Smith in a race that went on for 31 laps longer than expected. Stumbling across the finish line, Logano miraculously went 110 laps on the 1.33-mile concrete oval without stopping for fuel, a factor that made all the difference in the end.

Speaking on Dale Jr Download, Joey Logano revealed how he conserved fuel at Nashville Superspeedway to outlast his competitors. The 34-year-old said, “Honestly it’s no different than if you wanted to save fuel going down the road. The first thing you do is eliminate the brake pedal. The brake pedal is the number one fuel mileage killer. Yeah, there’s a few things that went into allowing us to run as long as we did.

“For one, I think there’s 40-something laps of caution within that 110-lap window. That helps a lot. You can save so much gas under caution. You look at in-car cameras, everyone’s got the engine off right. You’re coasting. The more you can coast obviously helps with that. You know, the fact that we weren’t as far forward as some of the other cars we were racing at the end of the race when we started that run, the further back you are, the pace is a little bit slower, you’re burning less fuel.”

When it comes to fuel conservation, a NASCAR Next Gen fuel cell can hold up to 21 gallons of fuel under normal racing conditions, giving a mileage of five miles per gallon. However, that number almost doubles during caution because cars aren’t going as fast. Since Joey Logano pitted 110 laps before the race finished, he was forced to conserve fuel long before the race had multiple cautions. However, luck was on his side, as circumstances meant he was caught in traffic, and not able to get on the gas as freely as the race leaders. This ensured Logano didn’t burn as much fuel as those at the top of the grid, a strategy that paid off at the end of the race.

With no wins this season before Ally 400 and barely above the cutoff line in points to make it to the playoffs, Team Penske took a ginormous risk to win in Nashville. They made the brave choice of going for the win, despite the risk of running out of fuel and risking points, instead of going into the pits and finishing in the top 15. Logano’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, cut it as close as possible, a fact that was confirmed by the driver whose fuel light was on during the final lap. The victory meant Logano now joins teammates Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric in the playoffs after both drivers won last month. Most importantly, he also won a psychological victory over favorites Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

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A disappointing finish for Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson

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The fact that Denny Hamlin didn’t win the race, despite taking the lead with just seven laps to go was a real head-scratcher. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led the Ally 400 until caution when Austin Cindric spun on the backstretch after making contact with Noah Gragson. Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart told his driver that there was enough fuel for just one overtime attempt, but Hamlin drove masterfully to make it last until three overtimes. However, he was forced to pit before the restart of the fourth overtime, which ultimately resulted in a 12th-place finish.

Speaking about the third overtime, Denny Hamlin said, “We ran out there under that caution. He (Gabehart) was monitoring fuel pressure or I let him know what the fuel pressure was, so we were fine with just running out of gas, and we did under caution. It was the right call. I was going down pitlane there out of gas. I’m surprised we lasted that many green-white-checkers, honestly. Certainly, it stinks being 15 seconds from a win at the end and, then 10 seconds from a win at the end, and then to finish 12th. It’s just part of it.”

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As for Kyle Larson, the Hendrick Motorsports driver finished eighth after being involved in incidents during two of the late restarts. During the first overtime, Larson, who was behind Denny Hamlin, got loose and collided with Ross Chastain, who was battling Hamlin for the lead. But wait, there’s more! Kyle Larson also fell victim to running out of gas during the third overtime, running into the back of Kyle Busch, forcing Rowdy to retire.

Do you think Joey Logano can maintain his momentum with a win in Chicago? Let us know in the comments!