JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — When “The Captain” asked, Joey Logano answered.
Did he ever.
Logano held off Sam Hornish Jr. to win the NASCAR Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, leading a sweep of top two spots for Roger Penske after the owner asked him to drive the No. 22 car on a rare weekend off for the Sprint Cup series.
“Really big for us to get a 1-2 finish for Penske. That’s awesome,” Logano said. “To come out here, our goal is to win this thing. That’s why I came out here on my off week, it was to come out here and win.”
Penske, nicknamed “The Captain,” approached Logano this month during the NASCAR stop at Daytona and asked if he would drive in the first of two Nationwide races at Chicagoland this season. Penske wanted a boost in the race for the owners’ championship, and Logano sure delivered on the request.
“How do you say no to R. P.?” Logano said, grinning. “I’m glad I did it.”
Logano, the lone Sprint Cup regular in the race, earned his second Nationwide win of the year and No. 20 for his career. He also won at Dover in June. Hornish held on for second and moved into the top spot in the series standings, seven points better than Regan Smith.
Austin Dillon led two times for a total of 24 laps and finished third to earn a $100,000 bonus. Dillon is third on the points list, but is still looking for his first victory of the year.
“We just keep inching on this first win,” he said. “We’re getting closer and closer. These top-threes, we’ll take them all day, we just want to get that win here pretty soon.”
Elliott Sadler had the lead on a restart with 24 laps remaining. But the defending race winner faded as Hornish moved in front on the track where he won consecutive IndyCar races in 2002 and 2003.
Hornish looked in position to secure the victory when Logano roared into the lead and went on to the win.
“I’m glad it wasn’t three or four more laps longer, because he was catching us,” Logano said. “And it was getting to the point that I was going to have to move around to find some speed again. But just about the right amount of laps.”
Sadler finished fourth, and was followed by Brian Vickers, Parker Kligerman and Trevor Bayne. Illinois native Justin Allgaier, Brad Sweet and Matt Crafton rounded out the top 10.
The series to Chicagoland returns in September on the same weekend that the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins at the track.
Sadler and Smith did not see very much of each other one week after their collision at New Hampshire led to a midweek phone call to clear the air. Sadler confronted Smith right after the race, promising he would not win the series title, and then said he would race the No. 7 Chevrolet differently in the future.
There were no such problems at Chicagoland, with Sadler racing near the front and Smith struggling with the feel of his car all day long. Smith, who entered the race with a five-point lead over Hornish in the series standings, slid into the infield on Lap 129 and finished 13th.
Hornish won his second career pole earlier in the day, and then led the first 49 laps. But he was flagged for speeding into pit road and sent to the back of the field for a restart on lap 54. He quickly climbed back into contention, but was unable to get to Logano at the end.
The penalty was the result of a mixed message on the radio that ended with Hornish’s team abruptly calling him into the pits.
“I knew exactly when I went across the line I was going to be speeding and there were no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Hornish said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I think we’re good.’ I’m like, ‘We’re not good. We’re going to go to the back.’
“We had 150 laps to get it done, we knew we had a good race car. The biggest thing was just maintaining the composure getting back up in the field.”
Sadler was still upset with Smith when the series arrived in Chicagoland this week. The dispute started when Smith spun Sadler around on the final restart in last Saturday’s race at Loudon, costing him a shot at a solid top-10 finish and a potential $100,000 bonus.
Smith took responsibility for the accident, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the co-owner of Smith’s car, also reached out to his longtime friend Sadler. But it did little to assuage Sadler’s anger.
Perhaps fueled a bit by the incident, Sadler led three times for a race-high 81 laps on the 1.5-mile, D-shaped track right outside of Chicago. But he just couldn’t stay with Logano and Hornish at the end.
“By the time that his car started falling off, it was too late for me to do enough,” Hornish said. “Ran him down, only finished a couple car lengths behind him, but really good day for the Penske organization.”