Joey Logano fended off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to take a morale-boosting victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Speedway.
The 18-year-old has had a difficult start to his first full season in Sprint Cup, but fought for the lead throughout Saturday's Nationwide event and ultimately clinched his second victory in the series.
Logano battled with polesitter Carl Edwards early on, passing the former champion and edging away as the opening stint progressed. He lost ground during the first pit stops, but remained the fastest car on track, reclaiming the lead from teammate Busch immediately after the second caution period. Busch returned the favor just after the next yellow, setting up a race-long battle between the Gibbs duo.
Meanwhile Edwards fell out of contention after half-distance, when he made an additional pit stop to check on a loose wheel – having pulled away from an earlier stop before the crew had finished tightening his left front. The precautionary pit visit to attend to this dropped Edwards back to 22nd.
The Gibbs drivers continued to exchange the lead as a series of midfield incidents brought out regular yellows. The crucial pass came with 11 laps to go, as Logano slipped past Busch for first position just before a multi-car accident triggered by Ricky Stenhouse Jr slewing into Joe Nemechek and pitching the latter into a roll.
NASCAR elected to halt the race so that the debris could be completely cleared and to give the drivers a clear green flag run to the finish. Logano duly kept Busch under control throughout the decisive five-laps shoot-out and secured his first win since last summer.
"The car was good from the start, the crew is awesome and it's been too long that we've been waiting for this win," said Logano.
Busch picked up some damage on his Toyota in a restart brush with Michael McDowell – who had briefly led after choosing not to change tires at the final stops – but felt the main reason for his defeat was that Logano simply had a faster package.
"Joey had a better car at the beginning of the run, and we just didn't have it today," said Busch.
Brad Keselowski completed the top three, having run with the lead pack throughout, with Kelly Bires fending off the recovering Edwards to earn both fourth place and the 2008 runner-up's respect.
"I had a great race with Kelly Bires at the end," said Edwards. "If that guy doesn't get a full-time ride, I don't know who deserves to. He does, that's for sure."
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Joey Logano Toyota 225
2. Kyle Busch Toyota 225
3. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 225
4. Kelly Bires Chevrolet 225
5. Carl Edwards Ford 225
6. Jason Leffler Toyota 225
7. David Ragan Ford 225
8. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 225
9. Steve Wallace Chevrolet 225
10. Scott Lagasse Jr Toyota 225
11. Stephen Leicht Chevrolet 225
12. Jason Keller Ford 225
13. Burney Lamar Toyota 225
14. Shelby Howard Chevrolet 225
15. Michael McDowell Toyota 225
16. Michael Waltrip Toyota 225
17. Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet 225
18. John Wes Townley Ford 225
19. Michael Annett Toyota 225
20. Dennis Setzer Dodge 225
21. Jeff Green Dodge 225
22. Casey Atwood Chevrolet 225
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 223
24. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 223
25. Brian Scott Toyota 223
26. Eric McClure Ford 223
27. Tony Raines Chevrolet 223
28. Scott Wimmer Chevrolet 222
29. Justin Allgaier Dodge 222
30. Brandon Whitt Ford 222
31. Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet 221
32. Danny O'Quinn Jr Chevrolet 221
33. Tim Andrews Chevrolet 220
34. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 218
35. Kenny Hendrick Dodge 194
36. Benny Gordon Ford 157
37. Ken Butler III Chevrolet 145
38. David Green Toyota 144
39. Jeremy Clements Chevrolet 132
40. Kertus Davis Chevrolet 46
41. Brian Keselowski Dodge 32
42. Terry Cook Chevrolet 20
43. Johnny Chapman Chevrolet 15